NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Memories of the 1990s bull market surfaced once again Tuesday when the Dow Jones industrial average marked the three-year anniversary of its record high.
On Jan. 14, 2000, the Dow closed at 11,722.98. It has been downhill ever since, with the century-old index off 24.6 percent from its peak through Tuesday.
A return to those record levels won't happen anytime soon; from its 8,842.62 close Monday, the Dow would need to rise 32.6 percent to erase its three-year decline.
True, the 30-stock index has enjoyed annual gains like that before. But the last one was 1958, when the Dow rose 33.96 percent, according to Dow Jones & Co.
"I expect a pretty good year, but not that good a year," said Michael Cohen, director of research at Pacific American Securities LLC, who forecast it will be three to four years before the Dow sees another record high.
Things were different three years ago. The Federal Reserve was in the midst of raising interest rates and would not begin cutting them for another 12 months.
In addition to the technology boom, the economy was benefiting from the rush of spending ahead of what many thought would be a computer systems' breakdown when the calendar went from 1999 to 2000.
Stocks were still quoted in fractions, not the decimals of today.
Few imagined the extent of the slowdown in corporate profits that ensued. And no one foresaw the corporate scandals that brought down Enron, WorldCom and others, spreading mistrust in accounting. Terrorist attacks of Sept 11, 2001 revealed new vulnerabilities.
Three years ago Tuesday, Wall Street was buzzing with dealmaking. America Online on Jan. 10, 2000 made a $182 billion bid for Time Warner, as the nation's top Internet service provider tried to take over a decades-old media company.
The lofty hopes for the new company, AOL Time Warner, which runs CNN/Money, never panned out. So too with an often-quoted forecast of early 2000: Dow 30,000.
Nearly three years later, Bill Gross, the manger of the nation's biggest bond fund, Pimco Total Return, made a different kind of forecast: Dow 5,000. Times have indeed changed.