Investors on Watch for All-Time Stock Market Highs

The stock market is creeping up to its all-time highs set nearly two years ago.

sumit
|
Senior ETF Analyst
|
Reviewed by: etf.com Staff
,
Edited by: Kent Thune

Investors are on an all-time high watch. The powerful rally in the S&P 500 over the past month-and-a-half has pushed the market close to its record high set nearly two years ago.  

On Monday, the index pushed solidly above 4,600 and is now less than 4% below the peak closing level of 4,797 set on Jan. 3, 2022. 

A decisive breakout above that high would finally put an end to what is the longest bear market since the financial crisis.  

Between its high from Jan. 2022 and its low nine months later, the S&P 500 dropped more than 25%. That was less than the 34% decline the index experienced in February and March 2020, when Covid first swept the globe, but this downturn has lasted a much longer time. 

A seemingly endless stream of Fed rate hikes and high inflation prints weighed on stocks, but the U.S. economy has miraculously managed to avoid a recession—so far.  

With a “soft landing” for economic growth increasingly likely, investors are content to buy stocks at near-record levels. 

Whether they’ll be willing to pay all-time-high prices remains to be seen.

S&P 500 All-Time High: Bull vs Bear Case

Working in favor of stock bulls is the calendar. December and January have historically been the two best months for stock market performance, with an average gain of 2% and 1.8%, respectively. 

Earnings are also expected to grow a solid 8% over the next year, according to analyst estimates.  

On the other hand, some investors worry that 525 basis points to cumulative Fed rate hikes might finally tip the U.S. economy into a recession in 2024. 

Others argue that with rates near 5%, stocks don’t look compelling at these levels. The S&P 500 is currently trading at 19x forward earnings estimates, higher than the 10-year average of less than 18x. 

Time will tell which view proves correct.  

Sumit Roy is the senior ETF analyst for etf.com, where he has worked for 13 years. He creates a variety of content for the platform, including news articles, analysis pieces, videos and podcasts.

Before joining etf.com, Sumit was the managing editor and commodities analyst for Hard Assets Investor. In those roles, he was responsible for most of the operations of HAI, a website dedicated to education about commodities investing.

Though he still closely follows the commodities beat, Sumit covers a much broader assortment of topics for etf.com, with a particular focus on stock and bond exchange-traded funds.

He is the host of etf.com’s Talk ETFs, a popular video series that features weekly interviews with thought leaders in the ETF industry. Sumit is also co-host of Exchange Traded Fridays, etf.com’s weekly podcast series.

He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he enjoys climbing the city’s steep hills, playing chess and snowboarding in Lake Tahoe.