The Dow Jones industrial average crossed the 10,000 threshold on Wall Street today, a promising sign the economy is recovering from the worst recession in recent memory. Closing at 10,015.90, the first close above 10,000 in a year, the comeback is a symbol of how much things have improved -- at least on Wall Street.
On the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, traders celebrated with cheering and clapping when it hit the big round number.
"I mean Dow 10,000 on the way down wasn't as much fun as Dow 10,000 on the way up," said Ted Weisberg of Seaport Securities.
The first time the Dow crossed the 10,000 mark was on March 29, 1999 -- a time when the nation was enjoying an era of record prosperity.
A year ago, Wall Street was imploding. Some of its mightiest investment banks had collapsed, and there was genuine fear of another Great Depression. On March 9, the Dow sunk to 6,547.05 and investor outlook on the economy was so dire, many feared it might crater even more.
Fast forward a year later and the rebound is nothing short of remarkable.
"A year ago, we were in a meltdown, we didn't know if we would be here this time last year. No one, no one suspected we would be over 10,000 this day last year, no question about it," said Alan Valdes of Hillard Lyons.
Since bottoming last March, the Dow has soared 53 percent, almost 3,500 points, and mutual fund investors have recouped almost a $1.5 trillion of losses since then. That's a broad-based advance, led by financials and technology companies.
"It's obviously another indication that the wind is sort of behind the market at the moment, and we're moving a little higher," said Weisberg.
"Things are better than they were last year. That's really the message of the Dow 10,000 that things are much better than they were last year. We aren't in that abyss -- we aren't falling off that cliff and we are going forward here," Valdes said.
Today's push to 10,000 was powered by news of unexpectedly strong profits at the banking giant JPMorgan Chase & Co., which appeared vulnerable just a year ago. On Tuesday, technology powerhouse Intel Corp posted surprisingly good numbers, and Goldman Sachs and Google are expected to further wow investors Thursday.
But while corporate America seems to be in recovery mode, Main Street Americans continue to struggle. Dolores Holmes, who hopes to retire someday from running her bed and breakfast in Lambertville, N.J., saw her retirement savings drop almost 80 percent, and still has a long way to go just to get back to where she was.
"There was a big increase, this big last statement which was very positive," Holmes said. "But as far as the business goes, it's not going to come back as quickly as I need it to. I'm just holding my breath and hope it keeps on going up."