The US S&P 500 stock index broke through the landmark 2,000 level today, marking a six year rally which has benefited many Americans from Wall Street to Main Street.
During that time the unemployment rate has fallen from a high of 10% in December 2009 to a low of 6.1% in June this year, but the rally is still seen has largely benefiting wealthier Americans, as paltry wage rises have left most Americans with little money to invest in retirement accounts.
The gains in US stocks have also outpaced those in other major world stock markets in the past year and have been one of the top investments in 2014, beating the safe-havens of gold and bonds.
The rally has also received help from the Federal Reserve's policy of injecting liquidity into the market through its bond purchase program to keep interest rates low in recent years.
Even though the Fed's bond purchase program is now winding down, investors expect the rally will continue as economic growth has recovered this year and low mortgage interest rates have supported housing market activity.
"I continue to think this bull market has several years to go," said Steven Einhorn, vice chairman of hedge fund Omega, which manages $10.5 billion. He predicted earlier this year that the S&P 500 index would reach the 2,000 level.
The benchmark S&P 500, the proxy for the US equity market, encompasses the largest companies across various industries and is widely followed by pension funds, mutual funds and other institutions, with more than $5.14 trillion in assets benchmarked to the index.
Wage and salary earners have benefited from the S&P's rise.The average balance of a Vanguard 401(k) defined-contribution retirement account in July was $102,104 or nearly double the level of $56,030 during the Great Recession of 2008, according to the Vanguard Group.
"The rise in the S&P 500 is a virtual twin to the rise in the total US stock market, so of course investors, and especially index fund investors, who received their fair share of those returns, feel wealthier," said John Bogle, Vanguard's founder and former CEO, who started the first S&P index fund in 1975.
The S&P 500 has beaten its popular rival the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which only includes 30 stocks. The S&P 500 index has risen 195% from its closing low in 2009, while the Dow is up 161% and the tech-heavy Nasdaq is up 260%. The Dow saw a record closing high of 17,138 points on July 16 this year.
"I still have a Dow 10,000 hat in my office," said Jeff Mortimer, director of investment strategy at BNY Mellon.
All 10 S&P 500 index sectors have more than doubled since the 2009 low. For 2014, the index is up 8.1%, outpacing major overseas markets as well as asset classes like gold and Treasuries.