NEW YORK (CNNfn) - With the Dow Jones industrial average reaching 9,000 today, the weight of the number alone might sound impressive. But what does 9,000 mean for a market that has passed thousand-point milestones five times in three years?
In October 1996, the 6,000 barrier was greeted as "a new millennium on Wall Street, less than a year after topping the 5,000 mark."
Four months later, it was "the Dow industrials smashing through the 7,000 level for the first time ever."
As early as last July, when the Dow passed 8,000, Wall Street was already looking toward 9,000, with "all eyes on the next milestone."
"All of these thousand-point barriers are significant just because we've come so far so fast over the last few thousand points," explained Mary Farrell, investment strategist for PaineWebber. "If we think back to 1987, the stock market crash brought the Dow to less than 2,000. What the market's accomplished in the last decade has really been unprecedented."
The recent millennium marks have taken a bit longer to reach. While it took the Dow only four months to run from 6,000 to 7,000, it took five months to hit 8,000 and more than eight months to push past the 9,000 threshold.
However, market watchers caution investors against getting caught up in watching purely psychological factors like Dow 9,000.
"It's significant as a milestone. . . . But remember, [at] each thousand points, a venture is worth less of a return," noted James Pizzo, senior investment strategist at CIBC Oppenheimer.
Even some who say they're unimpressed by milestones admit that they'll probably notice 10,000. Besides the psychological heft of the five-figure number, it would mark the sixth thousand-point barrier climbed by the Dow since early 1995.
Compared to the first four thousand points, which took the Dow 23 years to conquer, that's a phenomenal rise - one sure to add fuel to the debate over whether the market has come too far, too fast.