By Joseph Adinolfi, MarketWatch
NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- Several analysts have said they expect the U.S. stock market to continue rallying this week, as a light slate of economic data, a last-minute push to goose 2014 returns, and a pervasive sense that the markets will finish the year on a strong note keep equities buoyant.
The S&P 500 (SPX) and Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) saw their 52nd and 38th record closes of 2014 Friday. The Dow industrials closed 23 points, or 0.1%, higher at 18,053. The S&P 500 gained 6.89 points, or 0.3%, to 2,088.7. The Nasdaq Composite gained 33.39 points, or 0.7%, to close at 4,806.8 -- it's highest closing level since
Analysts including AvaTrade's Naeem Aslam and PNC's William Stone and Michael J. Zoller agree that the stock market will likely move higher during most of next week. Outside of weekly jobless claims data, which is expected at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Wednesday, little important U.S. economic data is scheduled for next week.
In a research note released earlier in the week, Stone and Zoller pointed out that it usually takes a war, a natural disaster or a massive financial crisis to ward off the Santa rally.
"There have been some years that the bears have stolen the rally like the Grinch stole Christmas," the analysts wrote. " In 1990, concerns surrounding Operation Desert Storm were more than enough to overpower the cheer usually seen between Christmas and New Year's."
Investors will push stocks higher because they're optimistic about Holiday season returns, they said.
And why wouldn't they be -- since 1969 the Santa Claus rally has yielded positive returns in 34 of 44 holiday seasons, the analysts said.
Aslam said he expects stocks to continue moving higher through January, as strong U.S. economic data and the expectation that the Fed will not hike rates until the middle of the year continue to push them higher.
However, not everyone agrees.
MarketWatch's Tomi Kilgore reported that the Dow Jones Industrial Average has closely tracked its annual seasonal patterns in 2014, which suggests that the stock market's rally will continue through the last days of 2014, but could end just as traders' New Year's Eve hangovers are wearing off.