The Dow Jones Industrial Average hit a new all-time high Wednesday, prompting the let's-all-cheer and the who-cares camps to have at it in the headlines with a debate about whether any of it matters.
For the Dow, the new mark comes five and a half years after its previous record was set in October 2007. Since then, the economy has seen a deep recession, Wall Street and the housing market collapsed, unemployment has surged, and GDP has been generally unimpressive. We've had a fiscal cliff, a sequestration, a flash crash, near-constant brawling in Washington, a downgrade of the U.S. credit rating and serious questions about the financial health of a series of European economies.
And yet here we are. Blame or credit the Federal Reserve, view it as eternal human optimism or as something nefarious driven by computer programs, love it or hate it. Whichever way you choose to view it and however you think we got here, the Dow has reached a milestone.
The best stock since the prior all-time high? Home Depot (HD), the Atlanta-based tools and home-replacement parts seller, with a gain of 108%. The title of worst Dow member goes to Pittsburgh aluminum concern Alcoa (AA), down an ugly 79%.
All told, of the 30 current members of the index, 18 are trading higher now than they were Oct. 9, 2007, and 12 are lower, meaning 60% have been winners. Of course, it's important to remember that there have been several changes along the way.
The most recent was last September, when UnitedHealth (UNH) replaced Kraft (KRFT) after it split up. Kraft itself had been added in September 2008 when it took the slot held by AIG (AIG). Bank of America (BAC) and Chevron (CVX) joined in February 2008, replacing Honeywell (HON) and Altria (MO). Cisco (CSCO) and Travelers (TRV) were added in June 2009, while at the same time GM (GM) and Citigroup (C) were removed.
Here are the members of the Dow today, and what they've done since the old record:
Source: FactSet. Change in stock price since Oct. 9, 2007. Stocks in blue italics have been added since the previous record high.