The S&P 500 is on course to do something it hasn’t in 52 years

The S&P 500 has traded in a mere 1.6 percent range in the month of January through Monday's open. If the month were to end now, that would make January the month with the narrowest range since 1965, according to Oppenheimer.

In November 1965, the S&P traded in just a 1.1 percent range from its high to its low. Actually, the market enjoyed several months around then — March 1965, October 1964, May 1964, and February 1964 — when the then-relatively new index traded in a band of up to 1.6 percent.

In more recent times, the S&P traded in a 2.1 percent range in August 2016, which was the tightest range seen since December 1993.

This time, the top end of the range marks the market's all-time high, hit on Jan. 6. Its January nadir was hit on the first day of the year

The stock stasis didn't start when the calendar turned, to be sure. It has also been noted that the S&P hasn't closed lower by at least 1 percent since Oct. 11.

Some see the muted nature of the S&P's moves as a cause for concern.

Dennis Davitt, an options-focused portfolio manager with Harvest Volatility Management, said the market's range can be compared to "a spring that just keeps getting compressed and getting compressed more and more, and then once you realize the movement out from that tight range, it seems that much more dramatic."

To protect against a big move, Davitt advises the purchase of protective options, which are now unusually cheap.

Yet Ari Wald, head of technical analysis at Oppenheimer, counters that "just because fire insurance is cheap, that doesn't necessarily increase the risk of an actual fire occurring."

To the contrary, following a huge postelection market move, the recent flatness has "allowed previously overbought conditions to recede."

Wald says a pullback of 3 to 4 percent may be due, but that such "weakness should be bought."


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Michael Santoli

Michael Santoli joined CNBC in October 2015 as a Senior Markets Commentator, based at the network's Global Headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.  Santoli brings his extensive markets expertise to CNBC's Business Day programming, with a regular appearance on CNBC's “Closing Bell (M-F, 3PM-5PM ET).   In addition, he contributes to CNBCand CNBC PRO, writing regular articles and creating original digital videos.

Previously, Santoli was a Senior Columnist at Yahoo Finance, where he wrote analysis and commentary on the stock market, corporate news and the economy. He also appeared on Yahoo Finance video programs, where he offered insights on the most important business stories of the day, and was a regular contributor to CNBC and other networks.

Follow Michael Santoli on Twitter @michaelsantoli

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