Ooh! Our friend the stock market rocketed ahead some more yesterday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 57 points to 9,858. (That's 0.59% -- Fools prefer to focus on the percentages more than the points.) The Standard & Poor's 500 Index advanced 0.79%, closing at 1,059. It's been about 17 months since these indexes have been at these levels.

Meanwhile, stocks such as Boeing (NYSE:BA), Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG), Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), Home Depot (NYSE:HD), and PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP) are trading at or near one-year highs.

In the media, you might see reporters and investors high-fiving one another as they celebrate what seems like great news. After all, this is a great sign that the recent bear market may have finally turned into a strong bull market, isn't it?

Well, if you think about it some more, you may realize that this bit of news is actually kind of meaningless.

For example, consider that:

  • Sure, the market has risen quite a bit lately. But that doesn't mean it will continue. It may well plummet tomorrow. Remember -- no one can consistently and accurately foresee where the market is headed in the short term. (In the long run, though, its direction has almost always been up.)

  • Yes, there's been a bunch of positive economic news lately, such as upbeat reports on manufacturing activity, construction, and computer-chip sales. But there are also a lot of people out of work, a growing deficit, many states and cities in financial crises, and billions and billions of dollars going to Iraq and elsewhere. So there are both auspicious and worrisome factors at play out there.

  • Fools should focus on the long term. Yes, yesterday saw some nice appreciation in various stocks and indexes. But in three weeks, if not three days, will you really remember today's news? Will it still matter much? Probably not. This kind of report is often rather ephemeral.

  • Finally, think about what you should really be rooting for. Are you at a point in life where you're still socking away your money and investing it? If so, if you're a net buyer of stocks, you should probably be hoping for a market downturn or at least a continued slump. If you're going to be buying more than selling stocks, you should want prices to be low now, not high.

Next time you see an effusive headline about new highs, think twice before getting out your party supplies.

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