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Dow 20,000 – A Brief History of Magic Market Levels
Investors obsessively focus on round numbers for the Dow Jones Industrial Average. More than half a century ago, in late 1965, Wall Street breathlessly observed the Dow approach 1,000. In both January and February 1966, the index surpassed the magic level intraday, only to slip back by the market close. A bear market ensued, shaving a quarter off the index value, and excitement subsided.
You would think that 2016, above all other years, would have cured people of seeking predictions of the future, even leaving aside the Chicago Cubs. The United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union and Donald Trump won the presidency, neither predicted by Las Vegas betting lines, political polls or prediction futures markets. Despite having failed in every possible way they could fail during the political season, pundits now confidently predict the aftermath. New Year’s predictions abound.
Annual Chart through 2016
Below is our annual listing of different asset returns (large U.S. stocks, small U.S. stocks, foreign stocks and U.S. bonds) with a box around the best-returning asset for each of the past 51 years. The 2016 winner was small large company U.S. stocks, by far the worst of the four assets, and therefore the most in disfavor, the previous year. The ebb and flow of each asset’s returns show that good years may just be “borrowing” future returns. Just about the time you fall in love with an asset, it is about to under-perform. Everyone’s attention is on large U.S. stocks now, but they have been the best fewer times than the other three. Rather than being disappointed by the market’s inability to conform to our predictions, we act to adapt our investments to maximize the chances of achieving realistic goals.