Most market analysts tell us we have been in a bull market in stocks from 2002, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average was just below 8,000, until October 2007, when the Dow Industrial peaked at its all-time high of 14,279. I beg to differ.
In my humble opinion, a 16-year bull market in stocks that started in 1974 ended in early 2000, when the Dow Industrial peaked in January of that year at just over 11,700. How can I say this when 14,279 is a higher number than 11,700? Well, it all depends in what currency we are talking.
To Americans, the Dow Industrial did peak this past October when it closed at a record high of 14,279. To rest of the world, when you measure the Dow Industrial in almost any currency other than the U.S. dollar, the Dow’s high of 11,722 in early 2000 was the real high.
The greenback has fallen steadily in value for several years now. If you measure the Dow Industrial in euros, Canadian dollars, Australian dollars, New Zealand dollars, or even British pounds, the Dow Industrial stocks were worth more in early 2000 than they were in 2007!
And if we measure the Dow Jones Industrial Average in real money, gold, we are in for disturbing numbers:
In early 2000, it would have taken 39 ounces of gold bullion to “buy” the basket of the 30 super-big-cap stocks that make up the Dow Jones Industrial Average. By October 2007, when the Dow peaked at 14,279, it would take only 18 ounces of gold to buy the same basket of stocks! The value of stocks that make up the bellwether Dow Jones Industrial Average has actually fallen drastically when denominated in non-U.S. dollars.
Why does it matter to investors when the bull market really ended?
It is important to me because, if this is an ongoing bear market and what we really experienced from 2002 to 2007 was a rally within the confines of a secular bear market that started in early 2000, then this next phase of the bear market will be a long, drawn-out affair delivering lows for the Dow below the 8,000 it experienced in 2002.
The world is changing. After having the supreme world currency since World War II, the balance of currency power is shifting away from America. We have gone from being a creditor nation to a debtor nation. And with that, the great prices big-cap U.S. stocks once demanded may not return for years.