Trading Nation

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

S&P trades in remarkably slim range
Ed Yardeni on the economy and the market
Trader bets on upsides for these two Nasdaq drivers

The 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."