The Toughest Milestone.

Happy Valentine's Day. And all eyes are on the Dow Jones Industrial Average as it edges ever closer to the magic 30,000 level.

Happy Valentine's Day. And all eyes are on the Dow Jones Industrial Average as it edges ever closer to the magic 30,000 level. Will today be the day, for that special Valentine's present?

You know it's always a special time when the Dow surpasses another milestone in its march ever higher. The press always spends a day at the floor of the Exchange, taking photos of the special hats glasses and ties of the traders to mark this special occasion.

And the financial community takes a victory lap, celebrating both our good fortune and the strength of a vibrant economy.

Now most will mark the beginning of this Bull Market to 2009. It was a time when the economy and the Dow Jones Industrial Average emerged from the Great Recession that began a year earlier. And the Dow had retreated below the 10,000.

And from that low point, it has been a virtual straight line up. 20,000 points on the Dow in just 11 years. The fastest move in history. And presuming that we do surpass the 30,000 level, it will cap what has been by all measures an historic move, and a milestone to remember.

But history shows us, how exceptional this move has been. Markets and economies don't always perform like this.

And we're right to combine those two factors because both are necessary to produce these types of results.

First, you must have an underlying economy that is functioning well enough, so that corporations can have the environment in which they can produce the profits that ultimately drive the stock market. In In this country we've sometimes seen the one, but not the other.

Let's go back 50 years, to the toughest milestone.A time when the Dow momentarily surpassed another milestone, only to fall back, time and time again.It was a milestone, which turned into a millstone.

The time was 1966. The economy was strong, in fact so strong that the President at the time, Lyndon Johnson began a policy, of what came to be known as “guns and butter.” At the time we assumed that meant that the government could afford to promote strong defense and an expansive social policy. The country was euphoric, and it showed in the stock market, where for the first time in history the Dow surpassed the 1,000 mark.

Only latter would we learn that LBJ's guns meant the Viet Nam War, and hist “butter” meant the Great Society. Both of which proved to be excessively expensive, both in terms of lives and fortunes.

The country slumped, and so did the Stock Market. The market would not rally again for 6 years, When in 1972, once again the Dow surpassed 1,000. this time barely eclipsing the 1966 mark.

A new President, Richard Nixon promised to scale back government spending, and get us out of the war.

Unfortunately, it was to be another Presidency mired in trouble, as the Watergate scandal erupted, and the President was forced from office.

The Dow reacted with one of the worst bear markets in history. The Dow finally falling to half the level it had reached just 2 years before.

And for the next few years, the country and the stock market suffered through some tough times which included the OPEC Oil Embargo, and a situation that economists came to call “Stagflation”. A deadly combination of high inflation, and low productivity.

Finally in 1978, after 12 long years, the Dow again surpassed the 1,000 level. This time it would last.

The country had emerged from the Viet Nam War, the Oil Embargo, Stagflation, and Political scandal. The Financial Markets had persevered through high-interest rates, multiple corporate bankruptcies, inflation and one of the worst bear markets in history.

Interestingly several financial firms began during the 1970s: companies like Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, Charles Schwab, and Company and Carl Icahn Enterprises, among many others.

Its been a wonderful time to be an investor. One that began when the Dow finally surpassed the toughest milestone.

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