Three things to know about the US stock market’s new record high

Three things to know about the US stock market’s new record high
Key takeaways
Stocks set a new record

Today, the S&P 500 Index hit a new high, surpassing its previous record set in January 2022.

Disinflation was a factor

A resilient economy, quickly fading inflation, and strong 2023 performance fueled the market’s new record.

New highs don’t tell us much

It’s far more interesting to compare the price of an index to the fundamental characteristics of the companies in that index.

The S&P 500 Index hit a new record.1 We did it! And also … what do we do now? Here’s what stock market highs mean — and don’t mean — for long-term investors.

A world of change since the last market high

Admittedly, the prior peak in January 2022 wasn’t that long ago in terms of days, but a lot happened over that time period: US inflation climbed to 9%2, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates by over 500 basis points3, Russia invaded Ukraine, and a new Middle East conflict emerged. (Taylor Swift’s record-setting album Midnights hadn’t even been released yet.) Prominent naysayers warned of “economic hurricanes,” “five years of unemployment above 5%,” and “the worst earnings recession since 2008.” Not surprisingly, Americans’ confidence in the economy eroded.4

Fast forward two years. Thanks to a resilient economy, quickly fading inflation, and a 26% advance in 2023, we’re now celebrating the S&P 500 Index hitting a new record above 4797.5 Some investors might view this with trepidation. After all, aren’t we still waiting for the lagged effects of historic policy tightening to hit the economy? That’s true, but markets lead the economy, not vice versa. In my view, it’s likely that the 25.4% peak-to-trough decline in the S&P 500 Index in 2022 was accounting for the looming economic slowdown.6 A 25% decline is in line with the market’s performance ahead of past mild economic slowdowns/modest recessions. In those garden-variety economic downturns, markets historically bottomed around the time inflation had peaked and returned to prior highs within a year or two.7 Sound familiar?

What does a new market high mean? Three things to know.

More importantly, a new market high is not in itself any kind of danger sign — despite what some may fear. As the author Sir Arthur C. Clarke said, “Only small minds are impressed by large numbers.” Here are three points to help put those large numbers into perspective:

  1. Stock market averages are not mean reverting. In other words, they don’t return to a long-term average. Rather, they represent growth expectations for the US and the world.  If you believe that conditions in the world will continue to get better for most people and that innovative businesses will continue to thrive, then you should expect markets to trend upward over long periods.
  2. New highs offer very little information in and of themselves. It is far more interesting to compare the price of an index to the fundamental characteristics (earnings, sales, book value) of the companies in that index. While the broad S&P 500 Index may currently be trading at extended valuations compared to its own history, much of it is concentrated in the top 10 names. The other 490 stocks have been trading at average valuations.8
  3. Finally, the S&P 500 Index has hit 1,176 new highs since its 1957 inception.9 That’s the equivalent of a new high every fortnight, or 14.3 days. History suggests that investors should expect the market to ascend to many new highs over their lifetimes, even if the path isn’t always a straight one.


  • 1Source: Bloomberg, 1/19/24.

    2Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 11/30/23. As represented by the yearly percent change in the US Consumer Price Index.

    3Source: US Federal Reserve, 12/31/23. As represented by the federal funds rate.

    4Source: Gallup, 9/30/23. As represented by the Gallup Economic Confidence Index.

    5Source: Bloomberg, 1/19/24.

    6Source: Bloomberg, 12/31/23. As represented by the S&P 500 Index, which fell 25.4% from the peak on 1/3/22 to the trough on 10/13/22.

    7Source: Bloomberg L.P., 6/30/23. Based on recession dates defined by the National Bureau of Economic Research: Aug. 1957 – Apr. 1958, Apr. 1960 – Feb. 1961, Dec. 1969 – Nov. 1970, Nov. 1973 – Mar. 1975, Jan. 1980 – Jul. 1980, Jul. 1981 – Nov. 1982, Jul. 1990 – Mar. 1991, Mar. 2001 – Nov. 2001, Dec. 2007 – Jun. 2009 and Feb. 2020 – Apr. 2020.

    8Sources: Bloomberg, Invesco, 12/31/23. Top ten holdings as of 11/30/23 are Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, NVIDIA, Alphabet, Meta, Tesla, Berkshire Hathaway, UnitedHealth Group, and JP Morgan Chase.

    9Source: Bloomberg, 1/19/24.

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Important information

  • This is marketing material and not financial advice. It is not intended as a recommendation to buy or sell any particular asset class, security or strategy. Regulatory requirements that require impartiality of investment/investment strategy recommendations are therefore not applicable nor are any prohibitions to trade before publication. Views and opinions are based on current market conditions and are subject to change.