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U.S. bull market sets mark as longest in history

August 22, 2018

The bull market in U.S. stocks is now the longest on record.

The current bull run on Wall Street became the longest in history on Wednesday at 3,453 days, beating the bull market of the 1990s that ended in the dot-com collapse in 2000.

That's how long the benchmark Standard & Poor's 500 index of major U.S. stocks has gone without a drop of 20 percent or more, the traditional definition of a bear market.

Despite its long duration, this bull market actually wasn't as big in terms of overall gains as the 1990s one.

The milestone arrived on a listless day of trading that left the S&P 500 with a slight loss. Gains by technology and energy companies outweighed losses in industrial stocks, banks and other sectors.

"This expansion is alive and well, this bull market is alive and well," said Jason Pride, chief investment officer for private clients at Glenmede. "Valuations are definitely higher than we tend to like to see them, but they're actually not that atypical for the back part of an economic expansion."

The S&P 500 index finished with a loss of 1.14 points, or 0.04 percent, at 2,861.82. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 88.69 points, or 0.3 percent, to 25,733.60. The Nasdaq composite gained 29.92 points, or 0.4 percent, to 7,889.10.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked up 4.50 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,722.54. The Russell marked its second straight all-time high.

Gainers finished with a slight edge on decliners on the New York Stock Exchange.

The bull market for U.S. stocks began in March 2009 and has now lasted nine years, five months and 13 days, a record that few would have predicted when the market struggled to find its footing after a 50 percent plunge during the financial crisis.

The long rally has added trillions of dollars to household wealth, helping the economy, and stands as a testament to the ability of large U.S. companies to squeeze out profit in tough times and confidence among investors as they shrugged off repeated crises and kept buying.

President Donald Trump, who has pointed to the stock market as a sign that the economic policies he's implemented are working, weighed in with a tweet Wednesday. "Longest bull run in the history of the stock market, congratulations America!" he wrote.

Despite its longevity, the bull market lags others on the basis of magnitude, or the cumulative gain it has generated for investors.

As of Tuesday, the S&P 500 had climbed 323 percent over the current bull market. By comparison, the bull market that ran through much of the 1990s and ended in March 2000 led to a 417 percent gain for the S&P 500, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices.

"While it's long in time, it could still go on longer because, magnitude-wise, it's just not that far (along)," Pride said.

Despite the milestone, investors mainly kept an eye on company earnings reports and the release of the minutes from the Federal Reserve's most recent meeting of policymakers earlier this month.

The minutes of their discussions revealed deepening concerns that escalating trade wars could hurt the economy. The minutes also underscored expectations that the central bank is likely to increase its policy rate at its next meeting in September. Many economists believe another rate hike will follow in December.

The afternoon release of the minutes didn't have much of an impact on the market, which continued to trade in a narrow range.

Later this week, central bankers, including new Fed chief Jerome Powell, gather in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, an annual symposium that has often generated market-moving news.

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