Bull market milestones: S&P 500 doubles from 2009 low; Nasdaq at highest since 2000
Wall Street's bull market reached some major milestones in Wednesday's advance, after the Federal Reserve signaled no rush to tighten credit:
--- The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 8.42 points, or 0.6%, to close at 1,355.66. That marks a doubling of the index (i.e., a 100% gain) from its bear-market closing low of 676.53 reached on March 9, 2009.
--- The Russell 2,000 small-stock index (charted at right) closed at a new all-time high, rising 5.27 points, or 0.6%, to 858.31. That surpassed the previous record high of 855.77 reached on July 13, 2007, thereby erasing all of the index’s 2008-09 bear-market losses.
By contrast, the blue-chip S&P 500 and Dow industrials indexes still are 13% and 10%, respectively, below their record highs reached in October 2007.
--- The technology-dominated Nasdaq composite index rose to its highest point in a decade. The index rallied 22.34 points, or 0.8%, to 2,869.88, surpassing the 2007 high of 2,859.12 and closing at its best level since Dec. 12, 2000 -- when it was crashing from its all-time high of 5,048.62 reached in March of that year, the zenith of the dot-com mania.
With the Fed still fostering easy money, and many major companies reporting robust first-quarter earnings, that has been enough for the market to overcome a long list of legitimate concerns -- including crude oil prices above $112 a barrel and credit-tightening moves by many foreign central banks.
The Dow now is up 9.6% year-to-date, the S&P 500 is up 7.8%, the Nasdaq composite is up 8.2% and the Russell 2,000 is up 9.5%.
The market’s momentum has caught bearish investors, and even many bulls, by surprise this year. Some optimists say it’s a simple story of investors betting on rising corporate earnings as the global economy continues to advance.
The falling dollar, in part a product of the Fed’s easy-money policy, is helping many U.S. multinational companies by making their exports less expensive for foreign buyers and by boosting overseas sales and earnings when translated from stronger foreign currencies into the weak dollar.
Near-zero returns on cash also are driving frustrated investors into stocks.
-- Tom Petruno