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It's a good thing the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

finished in the green yesterday, or else we'd have had a down day.

It seems like that's not allowed these days!

And isn't everyone excited about how the U.S. market was able to ignore the Asian decline?

However, I'd argue that's untrue, given that breadth was about 2-to-1 negative.


Russell 2000

began the week at 819, and as of this morning's open, it's sitting at 819.

The index has given back all of Monday's gains.

For now, it failed

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right at 830, the same level that stopped the Russell on its previous run.

But the Russell is at a rather critical juncture now.

I have drawn in what I think is a very awkward-looking flag or pennant that it broke out of last Friday.

It then gapped up on Monday, only to spend the next three days giving it back and filling the gap. And now it finds itself back at the trend line that was broken just a week ago. Breakouts should break out and go; they shouldn't break out and come right back.

Why is this juncture a critical one? If the Russell doesn't stop here on the downside, then there is a message in that. Sure, big-caps might be where the action is right now, and people might step in and buy every down opening, but this isn't about the Dow and the

S&P 500

. This is about individual stocks. As I

recently noted, the Russell 2000 and the cumulative advance/decline line have been moving in lock step.

If the Russell doesn't hold up, then the advance/decline line and breadth won't, either. And breadth is a big component of the market. In fact, breadth is the input to the oscillator, which has made a lower high and turned down markedly.

Breadth is the component in the 30-day moving average of the A/D, which turned down on Wednesday. Breadth is the component of the McClellan Summation Index, which turned down yesterday.

The number of stocks making new highs on the

New York Stock Exchange

is another form of breadth measurement. Yesterday, 172 stocks on the NYSE made new highs. Compare that to 545 in December. If you think that's too long ago, compare it to 449 on Monday. Neither one makes for a good reading.

So maybe the averages were able to ignore the Asian markets, but clearly most stocks were not. The averages are just mathematical calculations of what the individual stocks are doing. Eventually, if you put enough negative inputs into the calculations, the bottom line (the average itself) becomes affected.

So if you're bullish, you'd better hope the Russell starts rallying soon. You know where I stand!

At the time of publication, Meisler had no positions in any of the stocks mentioned, although holdings can change at any time.

Helene Meisler writes a daily technical analysis column and Top Stocks. For more information,

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. Meisler trained at several Wall Street firms, including Goldman Sachs and SG Cowen, and has worked with the equity trading department at Cargill. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. She appreciates your feedback;

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