We analyse the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) and Swift observations of the 2009 outburst from a newly discovered transient and black hole candidate XTE J1652−453. The behaviour of the source was observed by RXTE to be a sequence of spectral states that are typical of black-hole X-ray binaries. During the first seven observations, it is determined that the source remains in a high/soft state. This is determined from the spectrum that is dominated by a soft thermal component, which contributes an average of ∼85 per cent to the X-ray flux at 2–20 keV, and from the hardness ∼0.1 showing up in the hardness-intensity diagram. For the last 20 observations, the spectral state is classified as low/hard, according to an average hardness of ∼0.8 and a balance between the thermal and the non-thermal components; a power-law component takes ≥80 per cent of the total 2–20 keV flux. Located in between is an intermediate state that the source might have experienced. The usual relationship between the rms and hardness is also present in the hardness–rms diagram. Throughout the outburst, no quasi-periodic oscillations are found in XTE J1652−453.