The Dow finally did it! It topped 17,000 in early trading Thursday, marking the latest milestone in the bull market that began in March 2009.
The Dow Jones industrial average continued its heady climb into unchartered territory on the eve of the Fourth of July, eclipsing the 17,000 milestone for the first time in its 118-year history and building on the bullish start to the second half of 2014.
After coming within 2 points of 17,000 Tuesday, the Dow finally cracked what Wall Street is dubbing "Dow 17k" after the government reported that a better-than-expected 288,000 jobs were created last month and the unemployment rate dipped to 6,1%, its lowest level since September 2008.
Five minutes after the opening bell, the Dow was up 64 points, or 0.4%, to 17,041.46.
"The headline jobs number and underlying data reinforces the fact that the domestic economy is thriving," says Todd Schoenberger, managing partner at LandColt Capital. "The markets will enjoy this data, which should push the broader averages to higher highs today. Let's just hope today's report is not equivalent to a fireworks grand finale."
It took the Dow 153 trading days to go from 16,000 to 17,000, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices. Compare that to the 21,652 sessions (or more than 75 years) it took to get to Dow 1,000.
Wall Street couldn't but help but give the resilient bull some credit.
It signals the "continuation of a bull market," said Gary Kaltbaum, president of Kaltbaum Capital Management. "I am not a big round number person, but I guess it has meaning."
Historically, it has been nasty bear markets, or multi-year downturns, that have extended the wait to reach fresh 1,000-point Dow milestones. Following the market top in 2007, for example, it took the Dow 1,461 trading days to make the climb from 14,000 to 15,000. Similarly, the Dow's peak in 1999 and subsequent crash resulted in a wait of 1,879 sessions for it to get to 12,000 from 11,000.
The big gains for the blue-chip average come on the heels of a bullish start to the third quarter, with both the Dow and Standard & Poor's 500 stock index racing to new record highs in the first two sessions of the third quarter. Investors are betting on the economy warming up again after a frigid winter and also see continued support from central banks around the world as a bullish driver.
Indeed, Kaltbaum says the stock market got a fresh wind after the European Central Bank last month talked about implementing a U.S.-style bond-buying program to stimulate the sluggish eurozone economy.
"Greed is picking up," Kaltbaum adds, "which usually means higher prices."
Michael Farr, president of money-management firm Farr Miller and Washington, says Dow 17,000 has a tinge of both good and bad news.
"New (1,000-point) handles on the Dow are always a big deal," Farr says. "I've been in the business since the days of Dow 1,700, so this is especially cool to see, or it means that I'm especially old.
"17,000 is a wow and a worry," Farr adds. "If the rule is to 'buy low,' this isn't low. New highs are the rewards for disciplined, patient investors. New highs also mean it's more important than ever to be disciplined. This is no time to swing for the fences. But, by all means celebrate. We have all endured a lot to get here."
Corporate earnings have been climbing, Farr says, which is good for stocks. But price-to-earnings multiples (a common metric used by Wall Street to value stocks) have been climbing too, which is not so good, he adds.
A market dip will eventually come.
Says Farr: "Investors should always be careful. And now more than ever with the Dow making new highs, investors should remember that markets go down. This market will correct someday, but this should not be a cause for panic."