"Whenever we get to these big milestones," says Kleintop, "it seems to take the market a better part of a year to digest those gains."
A massive run-up for the Dow from current levels seems unlikely, Kleintop adds. The market still could be faced with turbulence from overly optimistic earnings estimates later in 2013 and with headwinds in debt-strapped Europe ahead of key German elections in the fall, he warns.
Wall Street analysts expect double-digit earnings growth in the final two quarters of this year, according to Thomson Reuters. But Kleintop says those lofty estimates will have to come down due to a still-weak global economy and fiscal pressures at home. By comparison, fourth-quarter 2012 earnings are estimated to grow 3.8% vs. the same period a year earlier, says Thomson Reuters.
Frank Fantozzi, president and CEO of Planned Financial Services, an independent wealth-management firm, is also preaching caution to his high-net-worth clients.
"We're being very cautious now," he says, adding that he expects virtually no economic growth in the first three months of 2013 as the nation adjusts to higher taxes and less government spending.
"If we get zero GDP growth in the January through March quarter, there is no way the Dow will still be at 14,000," says Fantozzi.
He also doesn't believe Main Street investors are flocking back to the stock market as early fund-flow data this year suggest. Individual investors poured $16.1 billion into U.S.-stock mutual funds in the three weeks ended Jan. 23, according to the Investment Company Institute, a fund trade group. But Fantozzi says those positive flows won't prove to be long-lasting. The early surge of cash into stocks, he says, is simply from investors who fled stocks late in 2012 amid fiscal cliff-related fears putting their cash back to work in stocks.
"It's people buying back in after getting out last quarter," he says. More than $9 billion exited domestic stock mutual funds in the week ended Jan. 2, ICI data show.
Reasons for rallies
But records are meant to be broken. And there are reasons the Dow has been rising. There is also a case to be made that the rally has room to run, and that a record is within reach.
The Dow's move up, Farmer says, has been driven by a growing belief on Wall Street that headwinds, such as the subpar economy, the November elections, U.S. fiscal issues and Europe's debt crisis, are diminishing.
In short, the Dow is telling us that things are getting better.
"What's driving the market narrative right now is a burgeoning sense of recovery and confidence," says Farmer. "The Dow is emitting a signal that sentiment is on the rise."
The Dow's long reputation for reflecting the national mood bodes well, he says.
"The Dow provides historical touchstones," says Farmer. "When Americans hear the number of points the Dow is up or down, their minds immediately translate that. The 14,000 number has a reference quality to it, and has enormous value in itself."
Since its last high on Oct. 9, 2007, the Dow has been powered higher by Home Depot, up 99%, IBM, up 73%, and McDonald's, up 67%.
One potential benefit of the Dow's sharp climb and rising popularity is that investors who have been sitting out the rally, either in cash or bonds, might start funneling more of that so-called safe money back into stocks, Moroney says.
"If we can bust out to a new high, it will add to the pain trade for those people who are underinvested in stocks," Moroney says.
The Dow also looks attractive from a valuation standpoint, as the stock market is now trading at 14.5 times its trailing four-quarter earnings, a slightly cheaper price-to-earnings ratio than at its top in 2007.
Another plus: Investors are far less exuberant than they were in 2007, when stocks and real estate were flying high despite the fact that financial markets were quietly moving toward their worst crisis since the Great Depression.
The so-called Dow Theory is also sending a bullish signal. In short, when both the Dow Jones industrial average, which consists of stocks in companies that make stuff like computers and heavy earth-moving equipment, and the Dow Transportation average, which is filled with companies that move goods via railroads, ships and trucks, are both in a major uptrend -- which they are now -- it suggests the market is in bull-market mode.
While a correction can't be ruled out, the Dow's five-year high suggests it is decision time for investors.
Moroney says stocks offer a better alternative than bonds and cash.
"You can't focus on the fact that you missed the rally," Moroney says. "The fact that the Dow was at 6547 in early 2009 is not relevant. The question is, what do you want to do today?"
(c) Copyright 2013 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.
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