Market Extra: The last key death cross is poised to engulf the stock market

Ominous-sounding death crosses have been emerging in the stock market like weeds, with the latest—and arguably, the last important such cross—about to take hold in the Dow.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -2.11% is on the verge of joining other major equity benchmarks in a so-called death cross, where the 50-day — a short-term trend tracker — crosses below the 200-day, used to determine a long-term trend in an asset. Chart watchers believe that such a cross marks the point where a shorter-term decline graduates to a longer-term downtrend.

Currently, the Dow’s 50-day moving average stands at 25,173.14, compared against its 200-day average at 25,083.23, according to FactSet data, as of Friday’s close of trading. That puts the 50-day less than 90 points shy of breaching the long-term average, which could occur by the end of this week or next, based on the current pace of decline.

The Dow has suffered a series of punishing drops on nagging fears of slowing global growth, unresolved trade worries and the pace of the Federal Reserve’s rate increases, with Monday’s action placing the Dow at its lowest closing level of 2018 at 24,100.51.

Read: Here’s why the Fed won’t save the stock market, despite its worst December start since 1980

Check out: Stocks still haven’t seen ‘panic’ selling associated with market bottoms: chart watcher

The move for the Dow comes amid a string of bearish patterns that have cropped up in equities and fixed-income markets, highlighting growing concerns about the durability of a bull run in stocks that has lasted about a decade as the economy’s vital signs have also been strong, in a long-running, if measured, rebound from the 2007-09 financial crisis.

A number of strategists have underscored the recent spate of death crosses materializing—a death cross appeared in the S&P 500 index about 10 days ago and another formed in the small-capitalization oriented Russell 2000 index RUT, -2.58% in mid November.

The barrage of pessimistic death crosses isn’t the only worrying sign in markets.

MarketWatch columnist Philip van Doorn says more than half of the S&P 500’s constituents are in bear market, widely defined as a 20% drop from a recent apex.

On top of that, on Friday, the blue-chip benchmark descended 10% from its Oct. 3 all-time high, qualifying the index for the commonly used definition of a correction. The Dow joined the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite Index COMP, -2.27% in correction territory, while a close at levels seen Monday morning would put the small-cap Russell 2000 in bear-market mode.

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