The weak stock market performance of the past few days has created a chart pattern that could deteriorate quickly with one or two more negative sessions. Most of the major indices have printed a formation that still could prove to be just a pause in the bull market, but that could begin to look like a double-top with only a little bit more downside from here.
The days ahead should provide a clue as to how this stalemate will be resolved.
Look for the technical picture to begin receiving more attention as the media picks up on the talk from the trading floors. The S&P 500 Index likely will be the benchmark that receives the greatest focus, with 1,340 cited as the point at which the index will begin to experience a more significant breakdown. Still, investors might be well-served by keeping an eye on key technical levels in a number indices and exchange-traded funds — and not just the S&P 500.
With that in mind, here are the important indices and levels to watch in the days ahead:
S&P 500: 1,340
Wednesday’s close: 1,354.58
S&P Mid Cap 400: 948
Wednesday’s close: 962.85
Nasdaq 100: 2,575.00
Wednesday’s close: 2621.35
Russell 2000: 782
Wednesday’s close: 788.92
This is the index to watch, since it is closest to its breakdown level of the four indices cited here. A slip in the Russell below 782 could well signal danger for the rest of the market.
Select Sector SPDR-Materials (NYSE:XLB): $34.71 (the 200-day moving average)
Wednesday’s close: $35.24
A number of other ETFs that provide an indication regarding the health of the global economy have fallen below their 200-day MAs in recent weeks, including Select Sector SPDR-Energy ETF (NYSE:XLE), iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index Fund (NYSE:EEM) and PowerShares DB Base Metals Fund (NYSE:DBB), which holds copper, zinc and aluminum. If XLB is added to this list, consider it another leg knocked out from under the market.
Select Sector SPDR-Industrials (NYSE:XLI): $35.56 (April 10 intraday low)
Wednesday’s close: $35.69
Select Sector SPDR-Consumer Discretionary (NYSE:XLY): $43.32 (April 10 intraday low)
Wednesday’s close: $44.18
XLY is the best-performing major sector ETF in the trailing 12-month and three-year periods and No. 2 in the past six months. As such, it is the current alpha dog among the sector ETFs and therefore worth watching closely. XLY slid under its 50-day moving average this week and is less than 2 percentage points from falling to its lowest level in two months.
Having said all of this, is a rally still possible from here? Absolutely. Sentiment has grown rapidly negative, and Bespoke Investment Group reports that nearly half of the stocks in the market are more than one standard deviation below their 50-day moving averages — the worst such reading since Oct. 3 of last year. Also, the broad indices have a way of providing technical head-fakes that fuel bad decisions among the unwary.
However, if these indices and ETFs begin to break their support levels, it could be an important sign that stocks are in for a bumpy ride through the rest of the spring.
As of this writing, Daniel Putnam did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.