Before the market opened, the weekly unemployment claims came in a bit better than expectations, but the S&P 500 oscillated around the flatline and closed with a fractional gain of 0.11%. The general view is that investors are awaiting Friday's monthly unemployment report for a directional catalyst. The index is up 5.40% year-to-date but 2.79% below its interim high at the end of April 2011.
From an intermediate perspective, the S&P 500 is 95.9% above the March 2009 closing low and 15.3% below the nominal all-time high of October 2007.
Below are two charts of the index, with and without the 50 and 200-day moving averages.
For a better sense of how these declines figure into a larger historical context, here's a long-term view of secular bull and bear markets in the S&P Composite since 1871.
For a bit of international flavor, here's a chart series that includes an overlay of the S&P 500, the Dow Crash of 1929 and Great Depression, and the so-called L-shaped "recovery" of the Nikkei 225. I update these weekly.
These charts are not intended as a forecast but rather as a way to study the current market in relation to historic market cycles.