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Dow 10,000: Proceed With Caution

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By Michelle Singletary
Sunday, October 18, 2009

Someone asked me if I was excited when the Dow once again hit the 10,000-point mark.

Nope.

It was October 2008 when we last saw that number. Then this Wednesday, the Dow Jones industrial average again closed above 10,000 -- 10,015.86 to be exact. Should we be cheering, or should we remain cautious about this recovery?

First, understand what the Dow is. It is the most widely used indicator of the overall condition of the stock market. It's also just a snapshot comprising the 30 biggest and most prominent blue-chip stocks.

The first time the Dow hit the 10,000 benchmark was in 1999, and its all-time highest close was 14,164.53 in 2007.

So what should we think of this most recent development?

To find out, I interviewed some financial experts about this milestone.

"It is a true non-event," said James R. Cotto, a senior vice president with Cotto & Padovani Wealth Strategies Group at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney. "It is nice that it is moving in the right direction, but it is relatively meaningless from a financial-planning perspective."

Dallas Salisbury, the president and chief executive of the Employee Benefit Research Institute, is not in awe.

"Extraordinary losses or gains should never excite the average individual investor in a positive way, as they underline the irrationality of the markets and the absence of any individual control over the markets," Salisbury said. "Winning or losing, it is more and more like being at a table in Las Vegas."

Salisbury said that now, more than ever, individual investors should be trying to decide how much they can afford to lose in the stock market and how much of their money needs to be safe and not subject to big swings in value.

Don Blandin, president and chief executive of Investor Protection Trust, had a similar caution.


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© 2009 The Washington Post Company

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