This month's statistics mark the fifth anniversary of the time back in May 1982 when INC. began its charts of the stock indexes at the same point: 0.00. Since then, the percentage change of each average has been tacked on month after month, with the progressive result shown here. The anniversary gifts of the popular averages have been lavish. But, alas, that red line in the middle represents break-even, the positive side of which our own INC. Index has not seen since October 1983.
A puzzling situation, but this has been a puzzling market, even to professionals. For whatever price-earnings ratios are worth as evaluation devices, they continue to expand beyond normal bounds. Even as the P/E ratio of the 30 Dow Jones Industrials, for example, was rapidly approaching 20 -- an extraordinarily high reading for blue chips that often defines the upper limits of a bull move -- the bulk of stock prices continued higher still. If one of the assumptions on Wall Street is correct -- that a major force behind this bull market is that there is lots of money around, and that there is no better place to put it but into equities -- how come the INC. Index can't even (so far) get back to last year's peak in July?
No concise answer offers itself, except that on the Street, as April's whipsawed silver traders well know, things can change breathtakingly fast. A few months ago, a seat on the New York Futures Exchange (NYFE) was going begging for about $100. You could have bought a couple of seats and salted them away. By this spring, the seat price had risen more than $5,000, simply because NYFE happened to offer a futures contract that suddenly attracted a flood of eager speculators. Perhaps shortly the flagging INC. group will meet up with the same bunch. There's still lots of unspent money around.