This new Motley Fool series examines things that just aren't right in the world of finance and investing. Here's what's got us riled today. If something's bugging you, too -- and we suspect it is -- go ahead and unload in the comments section below.
Today's subject: On Oct. 14th, the Dow Jones Industrial Average breached the 10,000 mark for the first time since the fall of 2008. Like a group of mountaineers exiting the death zone above Mt. Everest Base Camp 4, the investing community roared in delight and threw their ice picks in the air with rejoice. On the heels of strong earnings from Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) , the Dow 30 surged ahead and closed the day at 10,015.86. Sighs of relief could be heard across the financial landscape. Celebration erupted on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, traders called other traders; investors bartered with one another for the next stock tip. And I'll admit it: I got a few butterflies in my stomach as well. I thought to myself, could this really be the turning point we've been looking for?
Why you should be indignant: On the day of the great summit, CNBC ran headlines that screamed "Dow Hits 10,000! What Will Stocks Do For An Encore?" Another banner read, "Dow 10,000: More Than Meets The Eye?"
First, I'll admit that the Dow breaking 10,000 does indeed break some sort of psychological barrier that selected investors may fall prey to. The market is in fact highly irrational, so for those analysts watching the trend lines, this may indicate that things are getting better.
I, however, was looking for different headlines the next day. Nothing truly specific -- any of the following topics would have been sufficient.
Although the Fed has said that the recession is "very likely over," it continues to oversee a various number of expensive and unparalleled economic rescue programs. If these initiatives aren't wound down sometime soon, we are going to have some serious inflation concerns.
Our national deficit has surged to an all time high of about $1.4 trillion -- as a portion of GDP, the deficit is about 10%. This is the highest it's been since World War II. As revenues from taxes decrease, and long-standing issues like health care and social security are tackled, it doesn't seem like this problem is likely to disappear anytime soon.
Setting a 26-year high, national unemployment rose to 9.8% in September. Labor market stress continued in all but seven states. Unemployment is expected to peak in February 2010 at a whopping 10.2%, but already states like California, Nevada, and Michigan are above 12%.
Foreclosures rose by 5% in the third quarter as nearly 938,000 properties were affected by the downturn. Banks repossessed 88,000 homes in September alone, up almost 16% from a month earlier.
Last, but of course not least, is the dormant yet inevitable prospect of a commercial real estate bust. According to Daniel Tishman, CEO of one of the oldest construction firms in the U.S., "trillions of dollars are involved in commercial loans. The rollover of those loans in the next 5-7 years is going to happen and the money just isn't there for financing." Although some REITs like Vornado Realty (NYSE: VNO ) and Boston Properties (NYSE: BXP ) have rebounded since March, banks remain "very exposed" according to Tishman.
Wrapped in the distress of that quick summary, the Dow hitting 10,000 doesn't seem too special anymore, does it?!
A day after the festivities subsided, I realized that this "landmark" was like Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS ) reporting a $3 billion profit for Q3 -- something to be ignored. Goldman has exceeded earnings in 13 of the last 14 quarters, and thus their "record" earnings, like the Dow 10,000, doesn't mean all that much to me. I hate to draw upon the overused cliche of Wall Street vs. Main Street, but in this case, it seems apropos. Do we think that thousands of unemployed people woke up last Wednesday and squealed in delight as Bloomberg reported the Dow's daily achievement? Does the movement of a few stocks help anyone whose house has been foreclosed upon, or anyone who just got laid off and has a family to take care of? Dubious.
Simply put, the overreaction to the 10,000 benchmark was silly, premature, and out of context.
What now? Well, I know it may seem like I am some raging pessimist who thinks we are heading for a national downward spiral. But I'm not -- I'm just amused and a bit upset at how we react to such arbitrary numbers. Was 10,000 any different than 9,867? When the Dow fell under 7,000 back in March, was 7,062 truly any different than 6,763? I don't think so.
As an investor, of course, I am happy that stocks are moving upward, but in no way will I accept 10,000 as some sort of economic indicator or sign of recovery. Am I the only one who thinks the media and the general public need to get a bit of perspective here and relax? Do Fools agree with me here or do I just sound like someone trying to rain on the parade?