4 smart takes on the record-shattering market

Stocks are booming again, but as in 2000, not all of them are reaping the benefits.

By The Week Dec 2, 2013 1:17PM

Image: Bull (© Photographers Choice RF/SuperStock)The stock market is booming again, said Floyd Norris in The New York Times.

The Dow Jones industrials ($INDU) and the Standard & Poor's 500 Index ($INX) both "flirted with historical highs" last month, trading at over 16,000 and 1,800, respectively.

At first glance, those numbers seem impressive -- especially when you consider that they're higher than those in "the spring of 2000, when the country was in the midst of a love affair with technology stocks."

But the S&P 500 has changed quite a bit since then -- both in how it "is calculated and the nature of the bull market that ended in 2000."

And many of the stocks that made up the S&P 500 at the 2000 peak turned out to be disasters. Anyone who bought shares in five of the 25 largest firms in that year's S&P 500 index -- Lucent Technologies, Northern Telecom, WorldCom, Sun Microsystems, and American International Group (AIG) -- would by now "have lost more than 90 percent of the investment."

Then, as now, many see a rising stock market as "one of life's guarantees alongside death and taxes," said Jeremy Bowman at The Motley Fool. Stocks today are rallying to new heights "despite a weak economy, the government's recurring inability to make the most basic decisions, and federal spending cuts."

But just like in 2000, not everyone is reaping the benefits of the boom. Notable losers included Lumber Liquidators (LL), whose shares fell 12 percent in a single day last week after more than doubling this year thanks to the nation's housing recovery. And grocery retailer The Fresh Market (TFM) dropped 19 percent "after an across-the-board poor quarterly earnings report." No one should ever forget that even in a boom market, you can still make poor picks and lose money.

That's why investors should think hard about entering today's record-high market, said Jason Zweig at The Wall Street Journal. "Whether stocks are overvalued or fairly priced isn't the question." The real decision is how much you can afford to lose. "Like a cushy sofa, a bull market can lull even the most anxious people into a drowsy sense of comfort."

Assuming returns stay flat through the end of the year, 2013 will rank as the 19th-best annual return since the 1929 crash. Remember: "Financial history never repeats itself exactly, but it always rhymes." Simple research will tell you whether investing in certain assets is risky. Make sure you can handle the losses, "and think more honestly about what you are getting yourself in for."

If this is a bubble, there's something missing, said Michael Sincere at MarketWatch: the "mania." After all, "a bubble without a mania is like an ice cream sundae without a cherry."

So where are the "intoxicated investors, a buying frenzy, over-the-top speculation, and a get-rich-quick mentality"? We need all those things to have a real bubble, just as we need my fellow financial market writers to stop using the very term. "How can we have a bubble if you keep writing about it?"

In all seriousness: In times like these, investors should remember financier Bernard Baruch. When asked how he made a fortune on the stock market, he said, "By selling too soon." Don't wait, in other words, for the pop of the bubble.


More from TheWeek.com

Dec 2, 2013 4:44PM
The phony market highs are a product of the fed and that is all. Stop the free money and we all know where the market will go... down, down, down in the same way as the hopes of the lovesick character of which Johnny Cash sang in "burning ring of fire". Wall street trusts the fed (like a heroin addict trusts his pusher) because that's who gives them their "high". They know corporations own the fed and congress outright, and that Yellen and the fed will never, never do anything that Wall Street doesn't like. 
Dec 2, 2013 3:37PM
I wouldn't call the markets 'booming' if they are based entirely on counterfeit toilet paper Benny Bucks.
Dec 2, 2013 4:47PM
Maybe 20% of the boats were lifted. With about 50% on some type of government help to exist it is improbable all boats were lifted. Those wondering what to do about their canceled health insurance & the high price of Obamacare are stuck in the mud with seniors with their pittance increase of 1.5% cost of living raises. The rich Politian's boats have risen to all time highs with their insider trading and serving themselves instead of the country.
Dec 2, 2013 3:34PM
Dec 2, 2013 6:18PM

"When [financier Bernard Baruch was] asked how he made a fortune on the stock market, he said, 'By selling too soon.'"


Then again, and in spite of being a stock market bear extraordinare, he did manage to lose about two-thirds of his fortune by 1931. Perhaps he confided to close friends, " I didn't sell soon enough."



Dec 2, 2013 5:12PM
only stocks that belong to Obama 's financial supporters are sky high.some emerging market stocks are at record lows because all money going to Obama's inflated stocks.he uses middlemen that get loans with no collateral from bail out banks to inflate stocks.who are these stocks tesla,amazon google apple Netflix goldman sacks and others.with Clinton during dot.com bubbles emerging markets stocks like Russian oil companies,copper and gold mining were making record lows.10 years laters Russian oil stocks went up 100x and copper and gold mines like 10 x and 96% of sky high stocks during Clinton went down to zero

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