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January 27 2017

Break out the Dow 20K Hats?

Patrice L. Onwuka

This week, the Dow Jones Industrial hit 20,000 for the first time, but is it just a feel-good number or a meaningful indicator of the health of our economy? What does it mean to the everyday Americans?

When the Dow crossed the 20,000 threshold just weeks after hitting the last major milestone of 19,000, trading floors exploded with excitement. Traders and investors donned red and black hats emblazed with “Dow 20,000” that had been tucked away for the past few weeks in anticipation of the milestone.

Some are saying it’s just a psychological, but that ignores the real cash generated by our economy –and that is something to cheer about. As Steve Moore explains for Fox News, “the nation's wealth has exploded by at least $2 trillion since the election.” That means if you are invested in companies your portfolio got another lift.

In part, better-than-expected earnings results drove the Dow higher, an indication that businesses are strong.

Confidence in the future is also a bigger driver, but that has less to do with whether Americans are buying more goods and services and more to do with expected pro-growth policies for U.S. businesses. Experts weighed in:

"On its own, that doesn't mean much to many serious investors," said Ryan Detrick, a senior market strategist at LPL Financial, which oversees $502 billion in assets.

"We've been in a very tight range, and now we're breaking out to the upside," Detrick told Business Insider. "That's picture-perfect."

"The post-election rally was more about a reduction in the uncertainty," said Brad McMillan, the chief investment officer at Commonwealth Financial Network. "In other words, now we basically know what we're getting," he told Business Insider.

Trump Administration adviser Kellyanne Conway named it the “Trump Effect.” The response of the Dow to climb nearly 2,000 points higher since election, is no longer deniable especially to those who predicted the economic doom at the prospect of a Trump Presidency.

Part of the Trump Effect is the Trump Administration's working with a unified Congress to deliver on promises to cut taxes, scale back Obama-era regulations (starting with ObamaCare), and push for needed tax reform.

For the everyday American, the psychological impact turns into dollars and cents, but only if they are engaged in the market. Sadly, fewer Americans are engaged in the stock market today than before former President Obama took office.

Last April, Gallup’s annual poll showed that just a little over half (52 percent) of American adults owned stocks, which matched the lowest ownership level in the 19 years that Gallup tracked this measure. Compare that to 2007 when 65 percent of American adults reported owning stocks. Not surprisingly, many Americans dropped out of the stock market since the recession and never returned. Gallup noted:

“Although Americans in all income groups are less likely to have stock investments now than before the Great Recession, middle-class Americans have been the most likely to flee the market.

“Nearly three in four middle-class Americans, with annual household incomes ranging from $30,000 to $74,999, said they invested money in the stock market in 2007. Today, only half report having stock investments. This 22-percentage-point drop is more than double the changes seen in stock investing among higher and lower income groups.”

It’s encouraging to see the Dow cross 20,000 and we’re looking ahead to the next big milestone. We are also looking forward to policies from Washington that drive confidence in the business community to plan for the future, hire, and expand.

Let us hope that the constituency of business growth and greater job growth will inspire Americans to return to the markets where they can invest for their futures and reap the benefits of the next psychological milestone.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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