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Charting a (bullish) holding pattern: S&P 500, Nasdaq nail major support



Technically speaking, the major U.S. benchmarks have asserted a December holding pattern, digesting early-month rallies to record territory.

In the process, the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite have maintained notable support matching the November peaks — S&P 3,646 and Nasdaq 12,244 — amid a still comfortably bullish intermediate-term backdrop.

Before detailing the U.S. markets’ wider view, the S&P 500’s
 hourly chart highlights the past two weeks.

As illustrated, the S&P is digesting the early-December break to record highs.

The prevailing range has been underpinned by major support matching the November peak (3,646), detailed previously.

Monday’s session low (3,645.8) matched support to punctuate a successful retest.

Meanwhile, the Dow Jones Industrial Average
 is also traversing a jagged near-term range.

The index briefly tagged a record high Monday — by a narrow six-point margin — before reversing to close near session lows.

Tactically, the early-November peak (29,964) remains an inflection point, also detailed on the daily chart.

Against this backdrop, the Nasdaq Composite
has rallied from major support.

The specific area matches the November peak (12,244), detailed repeatedly.

Recall that Friday’s session low (12,246) registered nearby to punctuate a successful retest.

Widening the view to six months adds perspective.

On this wider view, the Nasdaq is digesting a decisive late-year breakout. The initial rally encompassed seven record closes across a nine-session span.

More immediately, the November peak (12,244) — detailed previously — has underpinned the prevailing range. Bullish price action.

Delving deeper, additional support holds in the 12,108-to-12,114 area, and is followed by the firmer breakout point (12,074).

Looking elsewhere, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is digesting a less decisive December breakout.

Tactically, the former breakout point (29,964) remains an inflection point, also detailed on the hourly chart.

Separately, the Dow has maintained a posture atop the 20-day moving average, currently 29,854, a widely-tracked near-term trending indicator.

More broadly, the relatively tight December range is a bullish continuation pattern. A near-term target continues to project to the 30,700 mark.

Meanwhile, the S&P 500 is also digesting a break to record highs.

To reiterate, the prevailing range has been underpinned by the breakout point (3,646) an area matching the November peak (3,645.99) and the Dec. 1 gap (3,645.87).

The bigger picture

Collectively, the major U.S. benchmarks continue to digest previously aggressive late-year rallies to record territory.

Still, the recent pullbacks have been relatively shallow, thus far inflicting limited damage in the broad sweep.

In fact, the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite have both maintained their first notable support matching the November peak — S&P 3,646 and Nasdaq 12,244. (See the hourly charts.)

Moving to the small-caps, the iShares Russell 2000 ETF is also digesting a December break to record territory.

The prevailing range marks the third consecutive flag-like pattern hinged to the initial early-November breakout.

Similarly, the SPDR S&P MidCap 400 ETF has asserted a higher plateau at record territory.

Here again, the prevailing range marks the third straight flag-like pattern.

Looking elsewhere, the SPDR Trust S&P 500 has sustained a less-decisive (but still bullish) late-year breakout.

The shallow mid-December pullback has been underpinned by the breakout point and the 20-day moving average.

Placing a finer point on the S&P 500, the index is consolidating a late-year rally to record highs.

The prevailing range has been underpinned by major support (3,646) on a closing basis.

Recall that the specific area matches the November peak (3,645.99) and the Dec. 1 gap (3,645.87).

More broadly, the pullback to first support punctuates a thus far tame December downturn.

Tactically, additional support holds in the 3,588-to-3,594 area, levels matching the September peak and late-November gap.

Delving deeper, the October peak (3,550) is followed by the ascending 50-day moving average, currently 3,529.

Against this backdrop, the S&P 500’s late-year consolidation phase — a sideways chopping around period — remains underway. The index is digesting a rally to record territory.

But broadly speaking, the prevailing backdrop supports a bullish intermediate-term bias barring a violation of the areas detailed above. Last-ditch support currently spans from about 3,530 to 3,550.

Also see: Charting a slow-motion breakout: S&P 500 challenges 3,700 mark.

Tuesday’s Watch List

The charts below detail names that are technically well positioned. These are radar screen names — sectors or stocks poised to move in the near term. For the original comments on the stocks below, see The Technical Indicator Library.

Drilling down further, the iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF
 is acting well technically.

Technically, the group has knifed to all-time highs, rising from a December flag-like pattern.

More broadly, the prevailing upturn punctuates a double bottom — defined by the September and November lows — levels roughly matching the 200-day moving average. An intermediate-term target projects to the 162 area.

Conversely, gap support (151.00) is followed by the former breakout point (146.50). A posture higher signals a firmly-bullish bias.

Netflix, Inc.
 is a large-cap name setting up well for the near-term.

As illustrated, the shares have rallied to the range top, rising to tag a nominal seven-week high.

The upturn punctuates a relatively tight range — and has been fueled by a volume uptick — laying the groundwork for a potentially more decisive breakout. Tactically, an intermediate-term target projects to the 574 area, closely matching the record peak (575.37).

More broadly, the shares are well positioned on the four-year chart, rising from a continuation pattern hinged to the steep early-2020 breakout.

Xilinx, Inc.
 is a well positioned large-cap semiconductor name.

Late last month, the shares reached record highs, knifing from the November range top.

The subsequent tight range signals muted selling pressure, positioning the shares to extend the uptrend. Tactically, the 158 area marks a near-term target.

Conversely, the 20-day moving average is followed by the breakout point, circa 136.50. The prevailing rally attempt is intact barring a violation.

Toyota Motor Co.
 is a large-cap Japan-based name taking flight. (Yield = 2.8%.)

As illustrated, the shares have spiked to record territory, rising amid optimism over the pending delivery of its new heavy-duty fuel cell trucks.

Though near-term extended, the strong-volume spike is longer-term bullish, and the shares are attractive on a pullback. Tactically, gap support (149.05) is followed by the breakout point (144.60).

More broadly, the shares are well positioned on the 10-year chart, clearing major resistance matching the 2015 peak.

Finally, Williams-Sonoma, Inc.
 is a well positioned large-cap retailer.

Late last month, the shares gapped to record territory, rising after the company’s strong third-quarter results. The subsequent pullback places the shares 7.1% under the November peak.

Tactically, the bottom of the gap (101.68) closely matches the 50-day moving average, currently 101.70. The prevailing uptrend is firmly-intact barring a violation.

Still well positioned

The table below includes names recently profiled in The Technical Indicator that remain well positioned. For the original comments, see The Technical Indicator Library.


Symbol* (Click symbol for chart.)

Date Profiled

SDPR S&P Regional Banking ETF


Dec. 14

Atlassian Corp.


Dec. 14

Etsy, Inc.


Dec. 14

Surface Oncology, Inc.


Dec. 14

Autodesk, Inc.


Dec. 9

Monster Beverage Corp.


Dec. 9

Cimarex Energy Co.


Dec. 9

Plug Power, Inc.


Dec. 9

F5 Networks, Inc.


Dec. 8

Emerson Electric Co.


Dec. 8

Patterson Companies, Inc.


Dec. 8

Zscaler, Inc.


Dec. 7

Fortinet, Inc.


Dec. 7

Kulicke and Soffa Industries, Inc.


Dec. 7

Honeywell International, Inc.


Dec. 7

Dillard’s, Inc.


Dec. 4

Caleres, Inc.


Dec. 4

Spotify Technology S.A.


Dec. 3

Align Technology, Inc.


Dec. 3

Valero Energy Corp.


Dec. 3

Analog Devices, Inc.


Dec. 2

Cirrus Logic, Inc.


Dec. 1

Sonos, Inc.


Dec. 1

Dollar Tree, Inc.


Dec. 1

Nuance Communications, Inc.


Nov. 30

Northern Trust Corp.


Nov. 30

American Airlines Group, Inc.


Nov. 30

Microchip Technology, Inc.


Nov. 24

Coca-Cola Co.


Nov. 24

Zillow Group, Inc.


Nov. 23

Yeti Holdings, Inc.


Nov. 23

Carvana Co.


Nov. 23

Palo Alto Networks, Inc.


Nov. 20

Bank of America Corp.


Nov. 20

Eaton Corp.


Nov. 20

SPDR S&P Oil & Gas Exploration and Production ETF


Nov. 20

MetLife, Inc.


Nov. 19

Hilton Worldwide Holdings, Inc.


Nov. 19

American Express Co.


Nov. 18

Kohl’s Corp.


Nov. 18

FleetCor Technologies


Nov. 18

Applied Materials, Inc.


Nov. 17

Delta Air Lines, Inc.


Nov. 17

Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR


Nov. 17

Ross Stores, Inc.


Nov. 16

Boeing Co.


Nov. 16

RingCentral, Inc.


Nov. 13

Regions Financial Corp.


Nov. 13

iShares Europe ETF


Nov. 13

Flex, Inc.


Nov. 9

Snap, Inc.


Nov. 9

Norfolk Southern Corp.


Nov. 9

Materials Select Sector SPDR


Nov. 6

Communications Services Select Sector SPDR


Nov. 5

Health Care Select Sector SPDR


Nov. 5

Alphabet, Inc.


Nov. 5

Uber Technologies, Inc.


Nov. 5

Keysight Technologies, Inc.


Nov. 4

Harley-Davidson, Inc.


Nov. 4

Garmin, Ltd.


Nov. 4

Pinterest, Inc.


Nov. 3

Sony Corp.


Nov. 3

8×8, Inc.


Nov. 3

Exact Sciences Corp.


Nov. 2

Universal Display Corp.


Nov. 2

Dentsply Sirona, Inc.


Oct. 27

Maxim Integrated Products, Inc.


Oct. 21

The Travelers Companies, Inc.


Oct. 21

Micron Technology, Inc.


Oct. 20

Vulcan Materials Co.


Oct. 19

Utilities Select Sector SPDR


Oct. 19

ON Semiconductor Corp.


Oct. 16

Ford Motor Co.


Oct. 15

Texas Instruments, Inc.


Oct. 15

First Solar, Inc.


Oct. 13

Nevro Corp.


Oct. 12

Teradyne, Inc.


Oct. 12

SPDR S&P Homebuilders ETF


Oct. 9

Shake Shack, Inc.


Oct. 9

SPDR S&P Biotech ETF


Oct. 8

Twilio, Inc.


Oct. 8

Cloudflare, Inc.


Oct. 7

Ceridian HCM Holding, Inc.


Oct. 7

Motorola Solutions, Inc.


Oct. 6

RSailPoint Technology Holdings, Inc.


Oct. 1

Martin Marietta Materials, Inc.


Sept. 30

Abercrombie & Fitch Co.


Sept. 29

Blueprint Medicines Co.


Sept. 28

Zendesk, Inc.


Sept. 23

Scientific Games Corp.


Sept. 23

Crocs, Inc.


Sept. 14

Five Below, Inc.


Sept. 10

Eastman Chemical Co.


Sept. 10

International Paper Co.


Sept. 3

Anaplan, Inc.


Sept. 2

Celanese Corp.


Aug. 26

Westlake Chemical Corp.


Aug. 25

Deere & Co.


Aug. 24

Expedia Group, Inc.


Aug. 24

Johnson Controls International


Aug. 21

Canadian Solar, Inc.


Aug. 20

General Motors Co.


Aug. 20

Starbucks Corp.


Aug. 18

Builders FirstSource, Inc.


Aug. 18

Steel Dynamics, Inc.


Aug. 17

Brinker International, Inc.


Aug. 13

Enphase Energy, Inc.


Aug. 13

Nucor Corp.


Aug. 11

Freeport McMoRan, Inc.


Aug. 10

Natera, Inc.


Aug. 10

Industrial Select Sector SPDR


Aug. 6

Penn National Gaming, Inc.


July 30

Procter & Gamble Co.


July 29

SPDR S&P Metals & Mining ETF


July 28

iShares MSCI South Korea ETF


July 28

Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.


July 23

Materials Select Sector SPDR


July 20

Caterpillar, Inc.


July 20

Roku, Inc.


July 16

Cognizant Technology Solutions, Inc.


July 16

Costco Wholesale Corp.


July 15

Consumer Discretionary Select Sector SPDR


July 13

SunPower Corp.


July 13

Walmart, Inc.


July 8

Danaher Corp.


June 24

Fiverr International, Ltd.


June 19

HubSpot, Inc.


June 8

Square, Inc.


June 8

FedEx Corp.


June 3



June 3

iShares MSCI Japan ETF


May 29

Synopsis, Inc.


May 27

Agilent Technologies, Inc.


May 15

Qualcomm, Inc.


May 12

Facebook, Inc.


May 7

ServiceNow, Inc.


Apr. 27

Five9, Inc.


Apr. 24

Chewy, Inc.


Apr. 24

Tesla, Inc.


Apr. 23

VanEck Vectors Semiconductor ETF


Apr. 17

Okta, Inc.


Apr. 16

Target Corp.


Apr. 16

Invesco QQQ Trust


Apr. 14

Apple, Inc.


Mar. 27

Nvidia Corp.


Mar. 27

iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF


Mar. 19

Microsoft Corp.


Feb. 22

* Click each symbol for current chart.

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My ex-wife passed away. I’m the beneficiary on her life insurance. Her family wants me to pay her funeral expenses and won’t leave me alone




I am 32, and just a month ago I found out that my ex-wife, whom I haven’t spoken to since we divorced, passed away tragically in a moped accident. My ex-wife had life insurance through her job. My ex-mother-in-law informed my father that my ex-wife had kept me as her beneficiary on her life-insurance policy, and her family wants the money for funeral costs, bills, etc.

Not only did my ex-wife have me on her policy as the primary (and only) beneficiary, she updated my home address on the policy after we divorced. Also, I found out through the insurance company that my ex-wife had two term life-insurance policies, one for me and one for my ex-sister-in-law.

I blocked my ex-in-laws, and now I received a threatening voicemail from a blocked number, so I’ve taken it upon myself to notify the authorities. I live in New York, I am remarried, and my divorce was very simple and easy. We left the marriage with what we came into it with. The life-insurance company approved the check in my name, and is sending it to my home.

Am I legally in the clear? I have not spoken to or bothered these people once since we divorced five years ago. I just want to be left alone and move on with my life.

Thank you very much in advance.

Best regards,

Fed-Up Ex-Husband

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at, and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.

Dear Fed Up,

First, I’ll deal with your life insurance concerns, and then the subject of your ex-wife’s funeral expenses.

The life-insurance policy was between your ex-wife and her insurer. It’s possible to overturn a life-insurance policy if it explicitly goes against the terms of a divorce decree, as happened in this case, but that too was a complicated lawsuit. Some states do have statutes that can revoke such beneficiary arrangements.

In “Kaye Melin and Metropolitan Life Insurance,” the children of the deceased were awarded the proceeds from the life-insurance policy, not the ex-wife who was named as beneficiary on the agreement. In that case, the law presumed that what her ex-husband wanted after their divorce was incorrect.

The ruling stated: “Thus, if a person designates a spouse as a life insurance beneficiary and later gets divorced, Minnesota law provides that the beneficiary designation is automatically revoked. At least twenty-eight other states have enacted similar revocation-upon-divorce statutes.”

‘I’m reluctant to say that you are ‘in the clear,’ given previous court rulings, and statutes in some states on the revocation of named beneficiaries post-divorce.’

I’m reluctant to say that you are “in the clear,” given previous court rulings, and statutes in some states on the revocation of named beneficiaries post-divorce. In your case, it seems clearer that your ex-wife wanted you to be the beneficiary. She did, as you say, update your address. It would be hard to see a more explicit sign of her intentions than that.

“Unless the policyholder of the life-insurance plan changes the beneficiary designation officially, the people originally named will remain the beneficiaries through the life of the policy,” according to Heban, Murphree and Lewandowski, a law firm in Toledo, Ohio. “Even if the policyholder was not on speaking terms with the individual upon his or her death, that beneficiary would still receive the income.”

“In the case of someone who divorced and remarried, the policy may name the first spouse as beneficiary. If the policyholder never changed the policy to reflect the divorce and remarriage, the ex-spouse could end up with the benefit. This can cause the current spouse and any children from the second marriage to dispute the beneficiary designation on the policy,” it adds.

But much, I suspect, would depend on what state you live in, and the specifics of your case.

On a separate issue, it’s difficult to glean from your letter whether your in-laws had little funds to pay for the funeral expenses, or were mad as hell that you were listed as beneficiary and felt you should contribute, or both. On the one hand, it seems like they are not in a state of mind to be reasonable and, chances are, if you did engage it would lead to further demands and acrimony.

Perhaps you could talk to your ex-wife’s lawyer and see if there is enough money to cover the costs of her funeral and, if not, you could make a contribution. But given the alleged harassing phone calls, their anger and grief, and their antipathy toward you, you would need to have all correspondence go through the attorney and refrain from any direct communication.

There is no excuse for their taking their grief out on you. Still, spare a thought for her family. If you are fed up, imagine how they feel.

The Moneyist: My boyfriend talked me into depositing my paychecks into his bank account, and paying for a car in his name. What can I do?

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 group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

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These money and investing tips can help you when inflation is burning a hole in your wallet




Don’t miss these top money and investing features:

These money and investing stories, popular with MarketWatch readers over the past week, focus on helping you make sense of the recent spike in U.S. inflation. Understand how rising prices can affect your investment portfolio, and taking appropriate steps now to respond, can prevent unpleasant surprises later.

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No, you’re not crazy. Yes, CDC mask guidelines are confusing — should you stop wearing a mask in public or not?




Wear a mask. Don’t wear a mask. Make one. Buy one. Wear it outdoors. Wear it indoors.

Confused? You’re not alone.

So what’s the deal with the CDC’s new guidance? “Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Thursday. “If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic.”

Vaccines have helped to slow the spread of the coronavirus, and this appears to be a natural next step for Americans tired of masking up. “We have all longed for this moment when we can get back to some sense of normalcy,” Walensky said.

We are still far, far away from normal. You can take off your mask “except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance,” the CDC says. You still need a mask on buses and trains, in museums and most stores, possibly at your place of work, but not inside restaurants, except when you’re going to the rest room.

How do you know a maskless person is vaccinated? It’s an honors system. The CDC guidance gives less reason for people to abide by that old American Express slogan: “Don’t leave home without it.” People are leaving home without their masks, even in states that still require everyone — vaccinated or not — to wear them in outdoor public spaces, including on the streets of New York.

Many people are fed up, it seems. Little wonder: The CDC’s announcement took many health professionals by surprise: According to a New York Times survey, 29% of epidemiologists surveyed thought people would be wearing masks in public spaces for at least aanother year, while 26% said they believed people would do so for another year, and 26% said they thought mask wearing would continue in some form from now on.

‘You still need a mask on buses and trains, in museums and most stores, possibly at your place of work, but not inside restaurants, except when you’re going to the rest room.’

The change in CDC mask guidelines comes just over a year since the CDC said everyone should wear masks. In April 2020, the Trump administration and the CDC reversed their policies on face masks, and said all Americans should wear cloth face coverings and not — as officials previously said — just medical workers. Trump cited “recent studies,” while the CDC cited “new evidence.”

Fast-forward to Thursday. “I think it’s a great milestone, a great day. It’s been made possible by the extraordinary success we’ve had in vaccinating so many Americans so quickly,” a maskless President Joe Biden declared in the White House Rose Garden declared, citing the vaccines from Johnson & Johnson


and Moderna

“It’s going to take a little more time for everyone who wants to get vaccinated to get their shots. So all of us, let’s be patient with one another,” the president said.

Forgive the public for having mask rules fatigue. We’ve been on quite a journey. Studies earlier in the pandemic suggested that adopting the practice of mask wearing, one that was already accepted in many Asian cultures, would have saved tens of thousands of lives. Many Americans were understandably frustrated, but also eager to do anything they could to stop the virus.

‘So what’s the deal with the CDC’s new guidance?’

MarketWatch illustration

Flashback: Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the Center for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a briefing on Jan. 30 last year, “The virus is not spreading in the general community. We don’t routinely recommend the use of face masks by the public to prevent respiratory illness. And we certainly are not recommending that at this time for this new virus.”

Three months later, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, ordered all New Yorkers to cover their faces in public when they can’t maintain a proper social distance. “You’re walking down the street alone? Great! You’re now at an intersection and there are people at the intersection, and you’re going to be in proximity to other people? Put the mask on.”

‘These are just guidelines from the CDC. It’s up to the states to decide what to do next. New Jersey and New York still maintain their mask guidelines in public spaces.’

The CDC’s latest mask announcement are just guidelines. It’s up to the states to decide what to do next. And that’s a whole other story. New Jersey and New York still maintain their mask guidelines when in public spaces. Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, is examining the guidelines, a spokeswoman for his office said in a statement. Murphy, like many governors, wears a mask in his Twitter profile. Perhaps that tells us all we need to know.

Roughly half of U.S. states have some mask mandate. Alabama, Louisiana, South Carolina, Florida, Mississippi, Nebraska, and Texas, among others, had already removed their statewide mask mandates in public spaces and/or had not instituted one. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, said Thursday he would grant clemency to gym owners who broke the mask mandate.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, officially ended his state’s face-mask mandate in March, and allowed businesses to reopen, despite opposition from rival lawmakers and health professionals at the time. Gilberto Hinojosa, chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, described the move as “extraordinarily dangerous” and said it “will kill Texans.”

Cuomo, meanwhile, perhaps still reeling from this time last year when New York was the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S., was definitive in maintaining current policy. Keep your masks on. “In New York, we have always relied on the facts and the science to guide us throughout the worst of this pandemic and in our successful reopening,” he said in a statement.

‘People take off their masks to make phone calls on the street in states where there is a mandate to wear them in public places, and they take them off while they are sitting outdoors eating.’

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, said his state will follow the CDC guidelines. “Later today, we’ll be updating Vermont’s mask mandate following the CDC’s updated guidance, announced yesterday,” he tweeted Friday. “This will mean those who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear masks — indoors or outdoors — nor do they need to be concerned with physical distancing.”

In Nevada, Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, said the state updated its own policies on mask wearing to follow the CDC’s guidelines with immediate effect. Nevada Health Response added: “COVID-19 is still very much a threat in our State and many Nevadans may choose to continue using masks based on their and their families’ personal health concerns. Others should respect this choice.”

That statement, perhaps more than any other, illustrates the tension, fear and frustration not only with state laws and changing guidance, but with each other. People take off their masks to make phone calls on the street in states where there is a mandate to wear them in public places, and they take them off while they are sitting outdoors eating. Most people are doing the best they can.

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, said people should still wear masks in public spaces for now, but likely not after June 15 when the state fully reopens. “Only in those massively large settings where people around the world, not just around the country, are convening and where people are mixing in real dense spaces,” Newsom told KTTV.

“Otherwise we’ll make guidance, recommendations, but no mandates and no restrictions in businesses large and small.” Is that all crystal clear? I’ll leave that for you to decide.

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