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Charting a bullish holding pattern, S&P 500 maintains 20-day average



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

Recent range-bound price action signals still muted selling pressure — in the wake of statistically unusual technical breakouts — preserving a comfortably bullish intermediate-term bias.

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 has staged an orderly pullback from the range top.

The downturn has been underpinned by near-term support (3,764) as well as the 20-day moving average, currently 3,750. Last week’s low (3,749) closely matched the 20-day.

On further weakness, firmer support rests in the 3,723-to-3,726 area.

Meanwhile, the Dow Jones Industrial Average
 has pulled in from a nominal record high, established late last week.

The downturn has been underpinned by a shaky, but successful, test of its range bottom (30,793).

Slightly more broadly, the Dow is traversing a relatively narrow eight-session range. The prevailing range is hinged to an early-month rally from major support (29,964), an area also detailed on the daily chart.

Against this backdrop, the Nasdaq Composite
has maintained its first notable support.

The specific area matches the breakout point (12,973) — also detailed on the daily chart below — preserving a seven-session range near record highs. Constructive price action.

Widening the view to six months adds perspective.

On this wider view, the Nasdaq has asserted a January flag pattern underpinned by the breakout point (12,973). The index registered two successful retests of support last week.

Also recall that the 20-day moving average, currently 12,918, is rising toward support. The Nasdaq has not closed under the 20-day since Nov. 3.

Delving deeper, the former breakout point (12,607) underpinned the early-January whipsaw — (the long red bar, also detailed on the hourly chart) — and is followed by the 50-day moving average, currently 12,455.

The Nasdaq’s backdrop supports a bullish intermediate-term bias barring a violation of these areas.

Looking elsewhere, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is digesting a technically more aggressive January spike.

As detailed repeatedly, the initial rally marked a two standard deviation breakout, encompassing three straight closes atop the 20-day Bollinger bands.

Tactically, the December gap (30,283) is followed by the 50-day moving average, currently 30,058, and the mid-November range top (29,964). A sustained posture atop these areas signals a bullish intermediate-term bias.

Similarly, the S&P 500 is digesting a decisive early-January breakout.

Recall that the 20-day moving average, currently 3,750, has effectively defined the recent trend. Last week’s low (3,749.6) registered nearby.

The bigger picture

As detailed above, the major U.S. benchmarks are acting well technically.

On a headline basis, each big three benchmark has weathered last week’s modest pullback, preserving a range-bound posture near record highs. (See the hourly charts.)

Moving to the small-caps, the iShares Russell 2000 ETF
 has registered a modest pullback from record highs, though amid increased volume.

Recent price action punctuates an unusually strong 6.3% breakout to start the new year.

Similarly, the SPDR S&P MidCap 400 ETF
 is off to a strong 2021 start.

Recall that the small- and mid-cap breakouts initially encompassed four closes atop the 20-day volatility bands across a five-session span signalling statistically unusual bullish momentum.

Though still near-term extended, the decisive breaks to record territory improve the chances of longer-term follow-through.

Looking elsewhere, the SPDR Trust S&P 500
 is consolidating a less-decisive breakout.

Tactically, the 20-day moving average, currently 373.65, is followed by an inflection point matching the December gap, circa 371.10.

Placing a finer point on the S&P 500, the index has weathered a modest downturn from the range top.

Recall this was the lone big three U.S. benchmark not to register a record high last week.

Tactically, near-term support, circa 3,764, has underpinned the pullback. Delving deeper, the 3,723-to-3,726 area marks the S&P’s first significant floor.

More broadly, the prevailing “expected” consolidation phase — or sideways price action — punctuates an unusually strong two standard deviation breakout.

The index continues to digest recent gains amid a comfortably bullish intermediate-term backdrop.

Tactically, the 20-day moving average, currently 3,750, is followed by a notable floor in the 3,723-to-3,726 area. The 20-day has underpinned the S&P’s recent grinding-higher trend.

Delving deeper, the 50-day moving average, currently 3,674, is followed by the former breakout point (3,646), a level precisely matching the early-December gap and the mid-November range top.

Broadly speaking, the S&P 500’s intermediate-term bias remains bullish barring a violation of these areas.

Also see: Charting a decisive 2021 breakout: U.S. benchmarks clear 20-day volatility bands.

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 Europe ETF
 is acting well technically. (Yield = 1.7%.)

The shares started the year with a breakout, knifing to nearly three-year highs, the best levels since February 2018.

By comparison, the ensuing pullback has been flat, positioning the shares to extend the uptrend.

Tactically, the breakout point (47.90) is followed by the 50-day moving average, currently 47.25, and the former range bottom (46.30). A sustained posture higher signals a bullish bias.

Initially profiled July 28, the SPDR S&P Metals & Mining ETF
 has returned 49.0% and remains well positioned.

Earlier this month, the group knifed to 18-month highs, rising from a tight December range.

The initial spike marked a bullish two standard deviation breakout, encompassing three straight closes atop the 20-day Bollinger bands. As always, consecutive closes atop the bands signal a near-term extended posture — due a cooling-off period — amid a firmly-bullish longer-term backdrop.

More immediately, the prevailing pullback has filled the early-January gap, placing the group 7.7% under the January peak. Deeper support matches the breakout point (33.80). The prevailing uptrend is firmly-intact barring a violation.

Moving to specific names, Sunnova Energy International, Inc.
 is a mid-cap manufacturer of residential solar and energy storage solutions.

The shares initially spiked two weeks ago, rising amid a volume spike after the Georgia Senate runoff elections.

The subsequent pullback has been fueled by decreased volume, placing the shares 21.5% under the January peak. Tactically, the breakout point (46.00) marks well-defined support. A sustained posture higher signals a comfortably bullish bias.

Initially profiled Nov. 2, Exact Sciences Corp.
 has returned 17.9% and remains well positioned.

Earlier this month, the shares knifed to record highs, rising after the company reported strong preliminary fourth-quarter results.

The subsequent flag pattern has been underpinned by the breakout point (141.90), positioning the shares to build on the initial straightline spike. An intermediate-term target projects to the 165 area on follow-through.

Finally, Reliance Steel & Aluminum Co.
 is a well positioned large-cap name. (Yield = 2.0%.)

The shares started the year with a breakout, gapping to all-time highs amid increased volume.

The subsequent pullback has been comparably flat, placing the shares 6.0% under the January peak. Tactically, gap support (126.40) is followed by the firmer breakout point (122.85).

More broadly, the shares are well positioned on the three-year chart, reaching previously uncharted territory from a bullish V-shaped 2020 reversal.

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

Alaska Air Group, Inc.


Jan. 15

Chevron Corp.


Jan. 15

Zebra Technologies Corp.


Jan. 14

Juniper Networks, Inc.


Jan. 14

Fate Therapeutics, Inc.


Jan. 14

Chegg, Inc.


Jan. 11

Ambarella, Inc.


Jan. 11

Macy’s, Inc.


Jan. 11

Nexstar Media Group, Inc.


Jan. 11

iShares Transportation Average ETF


Jan. 11

Energy Select Sector SPDR


Jan. 8

Teledoc Health, Inc.


Jan. 8

Dollar Tree, Inc.


Jan. 8

Skyworks Solutions, Inc.


Jan. 7

Financial Select Sector SPDR


Jan. 7

Devon Energy Corp.


Jan. 6

Alcoa Corp.


Jan. 6

FireEye, Inc.


Jan. 5

Check Point Software Technologies


Jan. 4

Synaptics, Inc.


Jan. 4

Ceridian HCM Holding, Inc.


Jan. 4

Lumentum Holdings, Inc.


Dec. 23

Sunrun, Inc.


Dec. 23

ShockWave Medical, Inc.


Dec. 23

JPMorgan Chase & Co.


Dec. 22

Coupa Software, Inc.


Dec. 22

PagSeguro Digital Ltd.


Dec. 22

Ballard Power Systems, Inc.


Dec. 21

LivePerson, Inc.


Dec. 21

United Therapeutics Corp.


Dec. 21

Shopify, Inc.


Dec. 18

CyberArk Software Ltd.


Dec. 18

Apellis Pharmaceuticals, Inc.


Dec. 18

Calix, Inc.


Dec. 17

Elastic N.V.


Dec. 17

Cerner Corp.


Dec. 17

Universal Health Services, Inc.


Dec. 16

Tenet Healthcare Corp.


Dec. 16

Sunnova Energy International, Inc.


Dec. 16

Toyota Motor Co.


Dec. 15

Williams-Sonoma, Inc.


Dec. 15

iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF


Dec. 15

SDPR S&P Regional Banking ETF


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

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

Zillow Group, Inc.


Nov. 23

Yeti Holdings, Inc.


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

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

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

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

RSailPoint Technology Holdings, Inc.


Oct. 1

Martin Marietta Materials, Inc.


Sept. 30

Abercrombie & Fitch Co.


Sept. 29

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

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

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



June 3

iShares MSCI Japan ETF


May 29

Synopsis, Inc.


May 27

Agilent Technologies, Inc.


May 15

Qualcomm, Inc.


May 12

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

iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF


Mar. 19

Microsoft Corp.


Feb. 22

* Click each symbol for current chart.

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These money and investing tips can remind you to not take Mr. Market’s moods personally




Don’t miss these top money and investing features:

These money and investing stories, popular with MarketWatch readers over the past week, help you make sense of your investment portfolio when stocks and bonds are choppy and Mr. Market’s mood seems to change hourly.

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Emerging market equities’ place in retirement portfolios




How much should you allocate of your retirement portfolio to emerging market equities?

It’s a timely question, since many widely-followed Wall Street firms are telling their clients that emerging market stocks are the only equity category whose expected return over the next decade is above inflation. Perhaps the most prominent of such firms is GMO, the Boston-based investment firm co-founded by Jeremy Grantham. It is projecting that the emerging market equity category will beat inflation over the next seven years by 5.0% annualized. In contrast, the firm is forecasting a 6.2% annualized loss to inflation over the same period for the S&P 500

As is also widely known, however, GMO has been making similar forecasts for many years now, and at least so far has been very wrong. Over the trailing 10 years, according to FactSet, the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF

  has produced a 3.4% annualized return, almost 10 annualized percentage points below the 13.3% annualized return of the SPDR S&P 500

Fortunately for our purposes, Credit Suisse has just released the latest edition of its Global Investment Returns Yearbook, authored by finance professors Elroy Dimson, Paul Marsh, and Mike Staunton. This yearbook arguably is the most comprehensive database of global returns, as it reports performance since 1900 for “equities, bonds, cash, currencies and factors in 23 countries.” For the first time, furthermore, this year’s yearbook was “broadened to include 90 developed markets and emerging markets.”

This long-term perspective is especially crucial when assessing emerging markets. That’s because we can all too easily forget that many emerging stock markets disappeared altogether at various points since 1900 due to “major events such as revolutions, wars and crises.” Their losses need to be taken into account when judging emerging markets’ prospects, and this Yearbook does.

This long-term perspective is crucial for another reason as well: Some emerging markets over the last 121 years have performed so spectacularly that they graduated to the “developed” category. Index providers employ a complicated methodology for determining when that graduation takes place and, as you can imagine, a lot is riding on that determination. But the inevitable result is that some of these emerging markets’ spectacular performance gets credited to developed market benchmarks rather than to emerging market indices. This yearbook’s authors employ an elaborate methodology to place each market each year in the appropriate categories.

You may say you don’t care how a country’s stock market is classified, just so long as it performs well. But you should care. If you invest in emerging market equity index funds, you at least implicitly are relying on the decisions that index providers make about what counts as an emerging market. There’s no way around it.

Long-term performance

Without further ado, let me turn to what the Credit Suisse Yearbook reports. Over the last 121 years, emerging market equities have produced a 6.8% annualized return to a US-dollar investor, 1.6 percentage points below that of developed markets’ 8.4% annualized. I note in passing that developed market bonds beat emerging market bonds over this period by a similar magnitude: 4.9% annualized versus 2.7%. These returns are plotted in the accompanying chart.

These long-term returns suggest that the last decade’s results are not as unusual as they may otherwise seem.

Do these results mean that there’s no need to allocate any of your retirement portfolios to emerging market equities? Not necessarily. Part of the rationale for investing in them derives from their potential diversification benefits: If they zig while developed market equities zag, and vice versa, then a portfolio that invests in both would incur significantly lower volatility, or risk, than one that invests in developed market equities alone. This in turn could translate to superior risk-adjusted performance even if emerging market equities underperform.

The yearbook’s authors find that emerging market equities do provide some diversification benefit. However, that benefit has been declining over the last several decades, as correlations between their returns and those of developed markets have been rising.

The bottom line? I came away from this latest edition of the Credit Suisse Yearbook with diminished long-term expectations for emerging market equities.

That doesn’t mean we should automatically avoid them. But we should base any decision to invest in them on other factors besides their long-term returns.

GMO and the other firms advocating for emerging market equities do just that, by the way, basing their bullishness on valuation considerations. They believe that emerging market stocks are very cheap, according to any of number of valuation metrics, both in their own right and relative to developed market (and especially U.S.) stocks.

GMO and similar firms may very well be right, of course. But the 121-year record suggests that they will have to be very right indeed to overcome emerging market equities’ long-term tendency to lag developed market equities.

Mark Hulbert is a regular contributor to MarketWatch. His Hulbert Ratings tracks investment newsletters that pay a flat fee to be audited. He can be reached at

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‘I want to hurt him the same way he hurt me’: My husband sprung a prenup on me 3 days before our wedding. Now I’m starting my own business and want to amend it




Dear Quentin,

I was married just over 2 years ago and I have been in the same relationship for more than 10 years. We have both been single parents from prior relationships. Considering our age gap, he is much more successful in life as a sole proprietor. He’s 56, and I’m 40. He talked about a pre-nuptial agreement during our relationship, but he did not spring it on my until 3 days prior to our wedding day.

We discussed nothing as to what would go into the agreement. I was severely depressed, cried uncontrollably for days. Even reliving this is causing heartache. I consulted with my attorney but decided to sign it rather than not go through with the wedding. For two years, I asked for a copy and he couldn’t find it: When I finally had enough, I found it in his office, and made myself a copy.

‘I’m angry at myself now because there are provisions I would have included had I had more time to think about it.’

I still don’t fully understand what happened, and I’m angry at myself now because there are provisions I would have included had I had more time to think about it. My parents will be willing me a home, and a nice considerable amount of cash. I’m not in his will, there is no life-insurance policy, and I’m not listed on the deed of the second vacation home “we” bought before we married, but he wants to say how everything is ours.

Technically, it isn’t. Now that I am about to start my own venture, which may be lucrative, potentially six figures a year, I want to amend the prenuptial agreement. In a way, I want to hurt him the same way he hurt me. It’s caused a lot of resentment on my end as I feel he never trusted me, although I have never asked him for anything. If he dies tomorrow, what is going to happen to me?

Should I amend the prenuptial agreement? Is it possible that the current prenuptial agreement is null and void?

Postnuptial State of Mind in Pennsylvania

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at

Dear Postnuptial,

You should know what’s in your own prenuptial agreement, given that’s it’s a legal document you both signed. I don’t understand why you did not have a copy when you originally signed the document, and why you didn’t actively insist on a discussion. With the help of your lawyer, that was your job to make sure that happened. You had the choice to call off the wedding and/or sit down and read every page. I’m not saying this to be provocative, but to remind you that taking responsibility for this sequence of events is more constructive than taking umbrage at your husband.

But let’s be very clear: Three days notice of a prenuptial agreement before your wedding without any willingness to compromise on the details or discuss them is sorely lacking in consideration, and is a chaotic and unsettling start to a marriage. I understand why it left you reeling, and why you felt both confused and angry. Prenups are enforceable in Pennsylvania, which is a marital property state, meaning that — in the absence of a prenup — assets are distributed in a fair and equitable manner. Inheritance is not considered marital property, so you should have no worries on that front.

Your prenuptial agreement should reflect that you both maintain your separate finances/assets in the event you divorce. In other words, what’s his is his and what’s yours is yours. He can’t have it both ways. According to Rowe Law Offices in Pennsylvania, “Historically, courts sometimes set aside premarital agreements when they were unreasonable; left one spouse destitute; were made without full disclosure of a spouse’s property and debt; were signed under duress or without mental capacity; were the product of fraud or misrepresentation; and so on.”

Should you amend the prenup? You can certainly create an amendment, as long as both of you are in agreement, or sign a new postnuptial contract that supersedes the original contract. But that is a question only you can answer based on what the prenup actually says, and whether you lawyer believes it is written in a way that gives you both the same financial independence post-divorce. The whole business seems messy and unpleasant. It was not a good way to embark on a marriage and, as a tangent to your question, it’s not a good way to continue one.

Certainly something needs to change. From the little you have said, it appears to be a marriage that lacks transparency and mutual respect. You need a financial therapist, a mediator or your own counselor to examine the causes and cures of this toxic atmosphere. Starting a business should be a time of optimism and joy, not steeped in an “I’ll show you” entrepreneurial revenge fantasy. Getting married is the biggest financial decision you will make in your life, if only because the toll divorce takes on an individual, and because you may end up taking turns supporting each other.

If this marriage ends, you should both leave with what you brought into it. Given that, the real issue here is not what happens in the event of a divorce, but everything else that comes before it.

The Moneyist:My wife has homeschooled our son and our best friends’ son since September due to COVID-19. Is it too late to bring up money?

Hello there, MarketWatchers. Check out the Moneyist private Facebook

 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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