Our long national economic nightmare is over.
The Dow Jones industrial average reached a record high Tuesday, closing at 14,253.77.
But whether that is cause for celebration or caution is a matter of perspective, northeast Indiana investment advisers say.
Neil Donahoe said Tuesday was just the tail end of a rally that started six months ago.
We think this rally is real, with plenty of room for stock prices to move higher, said the senior vice president and chief investment officer of SYM Financial Advisors in Winona Lake.
Donahoe compared the stock surge to a nine-inning baseball game. He estimated weve reached only the second or third inning of growth.
The Kosciusko County professional pointed to strong corporate earnings as the source of his optimism. After cutting spending during the depths of the recession, companies have amassed about $2 trillion in capital on their balance sheets.
Yes, thats trillion.
The stockpiles have allowed some companies to issue higher dividends, buy back stock and invest in new projects, Donahoe said. Those overflowing cash reserves make this stock market peak more credible than those reached in 2000 and 2007, he said.
But behind every optimist is a pessimist – or maybe realist? – shaking his head.
Enter Ian Boyce.
The certified financial planner, a partner in Dickmeyer Boyce Financial Management Inc., was less giddy Tuesday afternoon.
Boyce said hes been watching the numbers cautiously.
While I think there are some underlying improvements in the economy theres still some things that give us pause, he said.
Boyce listed fewer filings for new unemployment benefits claims as a good thing. And the housing market is recovering.
But those positives have to be weighed, he said, against negatives including long-term U.S. debt and federal officials role in artificially propping up the stock and bond markets by buying up trillions of dollars of bonds in a program called quantitative easing.
By driving down bond yields, the feds made the stock market look much more attractive to anyone wanting more than an anemic return.
The successful effort will eventually end, Boyce said. Thats when reality hits.
From that perspective, he said, the market could be considered overvalued.
Its difficult to perceive where we actually should be, he said.
Boyce and Donahoe agree on at least one thing: Dont get excited and rush into the market.
Take time to review your goals. And plan to hold onto stocks for at least five to 10 years, they said.
We are definitely an advocate of having a very diversified portfolio, Donahoe said.
He recommends a mutual fund or exchange-traded fund based on the Standard & Poors 500 index. The broad mix of stocks includes companies in various sectors of the economy.
Boyce recommends dollar-cost-averaging. The strategy calls for regularly scheduled stock or mutual fund purchases, regardless of where the market closed the previous day. Advocates say it yields the most profits over time.
Despite his cautious approach, Boyce considers himself rather bullish about the stock market. Over time, its been a reliable way to make money.
Investors who got nervous and pulled out when the Dow bottomed out in 2009, he said, have missed out on this portion of the recovery.