If stocks finish higher Friday, the market will have accomplished something it hasn't done all month: Close higher three days in a row.
Stock futures edged higher Friday morning, capping off a week of wild trading. The Dow was set to rise more than 150 points at the open. S&P 500 and Nasdaq futures were both modestly higher.
Stocks often finish December with rallies, but this isn't a typical December. Huge swings in both directions have sent investors' heads spinning. The Dow had its worst-ever Christmas Eve on Monday, only to post its best-ever point gain when trading resumed on Wednesday. Stocks were sharply lower for most of Thursday before roaring back at the close to finish the day in positive territory.
In a quiet week for news, market analysts say extreme volatility has been driven by thin trading volume and stocks hitting technical limits that rapidly drive sentiment from fear to greed and back again.
"As the market continues to worry about a recession, the implications of a trade war with China, and unpredictable and adverse political decision-making from the White House, we are going to continue to see volatility," said Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer at Independent Advisor Alliance.
Despite this week's gains, December has been a miserable month for stocks. The S&P 500 came within inches of entering a bear market multiple this week. This December is the worst for stocks since 1931.
"The rough market has worn on the psyches of investors," said Scott Wren, senior global equities strategist for Wells Fargo, in a note to clients. "This year turned quickly from meeting our expectations for the S&P 500 to falling well short of those expectations over the course of a few short weeks."
European markets rose by more than 1.5% Friday, while stocks in Asia eked out smaller gains.