Wednesday, December 29, 2010

"To Dow 16,000...Then 6,000?"

From an outpost of the Murdoch empire we don't visit very often, SmartMoney:
Here's a number-sequence question like the ones found on student intelligence tests, or aptitude tests, as educators like to call them.

Complete this progression: 94, 73, 119, 74, 142, 64
I don't know the answer to this one--it's beyond either my intelligence or my aptitude. But I do see three higher numbers (94,119,142) separated by three lower ones (73,74,64). The highs are getting higher, but by a lower percentage each time. So maybe the next number is around 160. The lows are more confusing. Why is the last one so much lower than the first two?

These are stock market numbers. Each is an intraday peak or trough in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, with the last two digits chopped off. Here are the full numbers with dates:

9,412--Jul. 12, 1998
7,379--Sep. 1, 1998
11,908--Jan, 14, 2000
7,489--Jul. 24, 2002
14,279--Oct. 11, 2007
6,440--Mar. 9, 2009

I'm not a numerologist, chartist or conspiracy theorist, and I only read half of "The Da Vinci Code." However, there's a clear story in the above numbers. The market has produced increasingly impressive rallies in recent years, and all of them have proved illusory, with the last ending in a tumble that dwarfed the ones before it.

That makes me wonder if the Dow is about to shoot up to, say, 16,000 – and then plummet closer to 6,000.
I know: Market movements are supposed to be based on fundamental measures of value like earnings and dividends, not on whimsy or patterns. However, given that companies that were reporting negative profits just two years ago are now boasting record earnings, it's impossible for investors to see earnings as a reliable measure. And dividends just aren't the main attraction they used to be. The U.S. market has yielded an average of just 2% over the past two decades, down from an average of 5% over the previous 180 years, yet investors keep buying....MORE