On March 9, 2009, the U.S. stock market officially bottomed out when the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by more than 673 points, closing at 6,547.05.
Since that day, as the late, great Al McGuire was fond of saying, it’s been pretty much "sea shells and balloons."
Over the past five years, the Dow has grown more than 150 percent. If you left your money in your 401(k), annuity, life insurance policy or individual retirement account invested in the stock market, you not only have recovered your losses from the Great Recession, but you’ve made bank. And then some.
The five-year rally ranks among the five longest-running bull markets in the history of the U.S. stock market.
So, what has fueled this breathtaking rally? I, for one, have always hesitated to link stock market performances to U.S. presidents. After all, global forces and factors such as energy costs that presidents cannot always control often play key roles in the fates of the markets.
However, a recent report by Forbes magazine cited a new book, "Bulls, Bears and the Ballot Box," by author Bob Deitrick. Forbes asked Deitrick, "How much credit should Americans give President Barack Obama for today’s improved equity values?"
Here is Deitrick’s response: "Our research reviewed American economic performance since President Roosevelt installed the first Federal Reserve Board Chairman – Republican Marriner Eccles. We observed that even though there are multiple impacts on the economy, it was clear that policy decisions within each administration, from FDR forward, made a clear difference on performance. And relatively quickly. Presidents universally take credit when the economy does well (such as Reagan,) and choose to blame other factors when the economy does poorly (such as Carter.) But there was a clear pattern, and link, between policy and financial market performance. Although we hear almost no one in the Obama administration taking credit for record index highs, they should. Because the President deserves attention for how well this economy has done during his leadership."
Like me, Jack Ablin, chief investment officer of BMO Private Bank, is generally skeptical about linking stock market performances to presidential politics. However, Ablin conceded that Obama deserves credit for stabilizing the U.S. banking industry with his stimulus plan and Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and for flat-out rescuing the American automotive industry. Without those anchors, this stock rally does not happen.
Of course, it’s too early to close the book on the historical economic impact of the Obama presidency. It remains to be seen if the rally will continue as the Federal Reserve’s bond stimulus program is tapered, and it remains to be seen if the artificially lower interest rates and the additional national debts created by the stimulus ultimately will result in runaway inflation that would tarnish Obama’s legacy. We also don’t yet know the full impact of the Affordable Care Act.
For the moment, however, most analysts believe the stock market rally is poised to continue for the rest of the year.
The rally also is fueling a rise in initial public offerings. So far this year, the number of IPOs on Wall Street has risen to 40, more than double the pace of last year.
"And the party’s just starting," John Fitzgibbon, founder of IPO Scoop, told Marketplace.org. "It’s a very simple approach. Good stock market equals good IPO market. Lousy market, kiss it goodbye."
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