The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) closed above 14,000 last Friday for the first time since October 2007 – an event that had investors feeling both jubilant and circumspect. Raymond James’ Jeff Saut wrote Monday that he favors upside in the interim “with the caveat that this rally is long of tooth.” Last Friday’s close put the Dow within arm’s reach of its all-time record high of 14,165.
Investors have been increasingly rotating out of bonds and into stocks, part of the reason for the upswing in the major averages.
According to Barron’s, the S&P 500 Index (GSPC) is trading at 14 times projected 2013 profits; the Dow is valued at less than 13 times estimated 2013 earnings. Essentially, stocks are cheap.
Whether the bull run continues or stalls depends on the retail investor – a missing actor in the markets over the last few years. Many investors got burned in 2008 when stocks plummeted to unseen levels because of the financial crisis. Even as markets have rebounded in the face of vexing economic concerns – the fiscal cliff, budget impasse, sequestration and tax code reform – investor confidence in stocks has lagged. Investors poured $6.8 billion into stock mutual funds in the first three weeks of 2013 but they withdrew $55 billion last December according to a report by mutual-fund tracker Lipper.
The Daily Ticker’s Aaron Task and Henry Blodget both agree in the attached video that the investing environment has changed over the last few years with the rise of high-speed electronic trading. This trend works against the average investor Blodget says, and the adage “buy and hold” has never seemed more relevant he argues.
“The idea that buy and hold is dead because we haven’t had performance over the last 5 to 10 years is classic short-term thinking and it causes people to miss these major bull markets,” he says. “I don’t think the individual should be more active… you can’t compete” against these trading algorithms and rapid-fire, lightening-quick systems.
Even with the Dow and S&P pushing multi-year highs, enrollment in investment clubs -- a popular hobby in the late 1990s -- has been dwindling. Market uncertainty and lingering fears of another market crash has caused members to flee, recruitment to fall and clubs to shutter their doors, according to The Wall Street Journal.
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