Dow erases losses, hits record high

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NEW YORK (AP) — The stock market is back.

Five and a half years after the start of a frightening drop that erased $11 trillion from stock portfolios and made investors despair of ever getting their money back, the Dow Jones industrial average has regained all the losses suffered during the Great Recession and reached a new high.

The blue-chip index rose 125.95 points Tuesday and closed at 14,253.77, topping the previous record of 14,164.53 on Oct. 9, 2007, by 89.24 points.

“It signals that things are getting back to normal,” says Nicolas Colas, chief market strategist at ConvergEx Group, a brokerage. “Unemployment is too high, economic growth too sluggish, but stocks are anticipating improvement.”

The record suggests that investors who did not panic and sell their stocks in the 2008-2009 financial crisis have fully recovered. Those who have reinvested dividends or added to their holdings have done even better. Since bottoming at 6,547.05 on March 9, 2009, the Dow has risen 7,706.72 points or 118 percent.

The Dow record does not include the impact of inflation. Adjusted for that, the Dow would have to reach 15,502 to match its old record, according to JPMorgan Chase.

The last time the Dow hit a record, George W. Bush still had another year left as president, Apple had just sold its first iPhone, and Lehman Brothers was still in business.

But unemployment was also 4.7 percent versus 7.9 percent today, a reminder that stock gains have proved no elixir for the economy.

Still, the Dow high is another sign that the nation is slowly healing after the worst recession since the 1930s. It comes as car sales are at a five-year high, home prices are rising and U.S. companies continue to report big profits.

The stock gains have helped retirement and brokerage accounts held by many Americans recover. That, in turn, has helped push U.S. household wealth nearly back to its peak before the recession, though many in the middle class are still deep in the hole.

From its peak in October 2007 to its bottom in March 2009, the Dow fell 54 percent. That was far less than the nearly 90 percent drop in the Great Depression but scary nonetheless.

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