The Dow just broke a pretty dubious record

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Catch-up for the Dow?

Investors have watched with interest as stock market indexes this year have set several new highs.

The latest record to fall, though, is for not doing much of anything at all.

Read MoreIs the Dow's underperformance a big opportunity?

On Thursday, the Dow Jones industrial average swung to a negative year-to-date return, the 21st such time it has moved to either side of breakeven for 2015. No other year has been so fickle, the closest being the 20 times the blue chip index swung in both 1934 and 1994, according to research compiled by Bespoke Investment Group. The Dow was off more than 1 percent for the year as of Friday.

That the Dow has topped the mark with more than four months of trading to go exemplifies a lack of conviction that stretches back to November, even though the index has posted multiple record highs during the period.

"That should catch us by surprise not at all," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities, of the new record. "To trade sideways for November to date, you would have to spend a lot of time on either side of the line. We tend to get stuck in a range, and lo and behold there we are."

For the broad market indexes, 2015 has been a bumpy road to nowhere, highlighted by the continuing Greek debt crisis, an economic slowdown and bear market in China, and anxiety over when the Federal Reserve will start raising interest rates.

Those headwinds have given folks plenty of reason to run, and investors have ripped cash out of U.S. equity funds to the tune of $106.8 billion year to date, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch and EPFR.