The Dow Just Keeps Heading Higher

As disappointed as some investors were that they didn't get to see the Dow close above 13,000, it's hard to be too critical of how stocks performed this week:

  • The Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI) rose for the second straight week, jumping 33 points to 12,983 and setting another nearly four-year high.

  • The S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC) finally joined its index peers by setting its own multiyear high, finishing up 0.3% and reaching levels last seen in mid-2008.

  • The Nasdaq Composite (INDEX: ^IXIC) also performed well, moving up 0.4% and putting itself within range of its own millennium milestone, closing just 36 points below the 3,000 mark.

Out of the 30 Dow stocks, 16 advanced, with Procter & Gamble (NYS: PG) leading the way, up 2.8% despite announcing job cuts involving about 5,700 workers. On the down side, Hewlett-Packard (NYS: HPQ) plunged 10% in the aftermath of a quarterly report that raised concerns about the company's ability to adapt its business model to the rapidly evolving technology industry.

Is the bull getting long in the tooth?
Whenever stocks are setting new highs, it's easy to start seeing everything through rose-colored glasses. As Greece finally made a formal offer to holders of its bonds to accept a big writedown as a condition of the country's getting bailout assistance from European nations, investors are hopeful that they might finally be able to put the sovereign-debt crisis behind them. Similarly, more promising news on the employment and housing fronts could well mean that those long-ailing measures have already hit their worst levels.

Yet even though stocks are still cheap by some measures, there are still plenty of obstacles to overcome before anyone can declare final victory over the market meltdown in 2008-09. With gas prices soaring, election-year rhetoric will inevitably create some bumps in the road. Rather than simply hoping for the best, smart investors will make plans now to figure out their next moves -- plans that will leave them ready for whatever the future may bring.

A brighter future ahead
The whole Dow 13,000 chase may be fun to watch, but your longer-term results are far more important. Get the help you need with The Motley Fool's special free report, "3 Stocks That Will Help You Retire Rich." Along with sharing three stock ideas, it'll help you plan for your financial future. Read it today and start getting your retirement in order.

At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributorDan Caplingerdoesn't own shares of the companies mentioned. You can follow him onTwitter.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Procter & Gamble. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Fool has adisclosure policy.

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