Dow above 13,000 for first time since crisis

NEW YORK – The Dow Jones industrial average on Tuesday reclaimed the last of the ground it held before the carnage of the Great Recession – bailouts, bank failures, layoffs by the millions and a stock-market plunge that cut retirement savings in half.

The Dow closed above 13,000 for the first time since May 19, 2008, almost four months before the fall of the Lehman Brothers investment bank triggered the worst of the financial crisis.

It just cleared the mark – 13,005.12, up 23.61 points for the day.

“I think it’s a momentous day for investor confidence,” said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Harris Private Bank. “What this number implies is that the financial crisis that we were all losing sleep over, it never happened, because now we’re back.”

The milestone comes at a time when Americans are feeling better about the economy than they have in a year. The Conference Board, a private research group, said its consumer confidence index was 70.8 for February, up from 61.5 in January.

The report came out at 10 a.m. and lifted the Dow above 13,000. It stayed there most of the day.

“Two months ago, we were talking about a double-dip recession. Now consumer confidence is growing,” said Ryan Detrick, senior technical strategist for Schaffer’s Investment Research.

He said the Dow’s milestone “wakes up a lot of investors who have missed a lot of this rally.”

The average first pierced 13,000 last Tuesday but fell back by the close. It floated above the milestone again on Friday and Monday, but slipped below both days. A strong rally for stocks this year seemed stalled as worry built on Wall Street about climbing prices for oil and gasoline.

Tuesday’s gain puts the Dow 1,160 points below its all-time high, set Oct. 9, 2007. The Great Recession began two months later.

The milestone could draw some fence-sitting investors back into the market and add to the gains, said Brian Gendreau, market strategist at Cetera Financial Group.

“Already here in the first two months, we’ve blown past the consensus expectations for the entire year, and that certainly gets people’s attention,” he said.

The breaking of the 13,000 barrier continues a remarkable run for stocks this year. The Dow started with its best January since 1997 and has added to that gain. The index is up 6.5 percent for the young year.

Other averages have fared even better: The Standard & Poor’s 500 is up 9 percent, the Russell 2000 index of smaller stocks is up 11 percent, and the Nasdaq composite index, dominated by technology stocks, is up 14 percent.