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Santoli: Flat periods often good for bull market

A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Getty Images
A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

The stock market is either in balance or indecisive, wobbling like a slowly spinning top or gathering fresh energy like a sitting bull through a long rest.

However your eyes behold this market, what's certain is that it has been decidedly flat for quite a while now.

This is where you might protest that stocks have been skittish and irresolute, the S&P 500 diving more than 12 percent from all-time highs four months ago, then gaining most of it back in a whiplash-inducing bounce.

Sure, but broaden out the view a bit, and you'll see a market that has gone essentially nowhere in 16 months. July of 2014 was when the S&P 500 — now at 2,090 — made its first run at the 2,000 level. Since then, it has been stuck in a compact band, spending nearly all that time between 1,900 and 2,100. The benchmark has spent only parts of five weeks below 1,900 during these 16 months, and its stabs above 2,100 have never carried beyond 2,134 last May.

This prolonged sideways shuffle, while perhaps frustrating for trend followers and those of us who have to tell stories about the market's message, is not particularly unusual...

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