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Alan Farley
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U.S. equity markets opened higher on the first day of options expiration week and promptly sold off, dropping SP-500 index back into a rising channel in place since November. Bonds lost ground as well, lifting the 30-year yield to the highest high since March 2020. The 10-year Treasury note pushed against 1.3% at the same time, signaling greater conviction about rising inflation as the stimulus bill works its way through Congress.

Banks Lift into Leadership

Credit card delinquencies held firm at elevated levels in January, reflecting continued stress as a result of high unemployment. However, the United States is rapidly turning the corner on the pandemic, with crashing positives set to translate into reopened restaurants and rehired workers. Dow component JP Morgan Chase and Co (JPM) posted an all-time high, lifting above 2018 resistance. Bank sector funds look solid as a rock at 2½ year highs and could easily break out in coming weeks, benefiting from a perfect storm of financial tailwinds.

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The SP-500 index is closing in on the 4,000 level, just 16 months after trading above 3,000 for the first time. It took five years to go from 2,000 to 3,000 and 17 years to make the jump from 1,000 to 2,000. Market players who love two-sided price action have been left behind by this relentless uptrend, which will end as soon as the last bear capitulates. However, it’s anyone’s guess when that will happen.

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Looking Ahead to Mid-Week

Walmart Inc. (WMT) and hotel chains lead a light reporting calendar during this holiday-shortened week. Marriott International Inc. (MAR) revenue fell 57% in the quarter ending in September and the run-up into year’s end could look even worse, given international lockdowns and quarantines.  MAR and rivals are trading close to 52-week highs despite obvious headwinds but bullishness may be misplaced, given pressure on business travel in the next few years.

Wednesday retail sales are expected to show a minor uptick after better-than-expected holiday sales. Market players will also examine the Fed Minutes for clues about interest rates but Chairman Powell has done a good job telegraphing the central bank’s intention to keep rates low. Taken together with dovish comments by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, there’s little reason to suspect that anyone in government will be tapping on the brakes in 2021.

For a look at all of this week’s economic events, check out our economic calendar.

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