The Dow Stands Poised to Set New Records


Don't look now, but the Dow Jones Industrial Average is setting multiyear highs today.

An 86-point gain at midday pushed the index up to 13,866, though it has since fallen back to a gain of 43 points as of 1:30 p.m. EST. This would have been an all-time high if not for a handful of even loftier market days in the Indian summer of 2007. Back then, the Dow topped out at 14,164 before plunging into the darkness of mortgage-fueled crises.

2013 has been very good to your favorite market barometer. How good? The Dow has closed in the red only five times out of 19 trading days and just once since Jan. 8:

^DJI Chart
^DJI Chart

^DJI data by YCharts.

Is this too good to be true (or sustainable), or is it simply another step in a long victory march?

If you believe in market fundamentals, there are plenty of encouraging signs. The first earnings season of the year is off to a fantastic start, with several key Dow components reporting great results. Above all, index heavyweight IBM absolutely crushed its fourth-quarter report thanks to strong margins and enterprise software sales.

This core stock is not only a fine barometer for IT spending trends -- a gauge of general market optimism -- but also the most heavily weighted of the 30 Dow components. So, by rising 7% so far this year, IBM has added 110 points to the Dow's total value all on its own. And because IBM is so centrally placed in the business world, I take that as a positive sign for the entire market.

Dow investors should, of course, be thankful that Apple hasn't found its way into the index roster yet. Otherwise, last night's weak iPhone sales would have caused 422 points of damage to the Dow. That blow would have instantly shaved about a week's worth of steady gains off the Dow's total value.

But as it stands, Cupertino holds the S&P 500 and Nasdaq indexes down while leaving the Dow totally unscathed. Apple holds massive sway over these roster's values, too, but by virtue of its still-enormous market cap, rather than high share prices. You win some, you lose some.

There's no doubt that Apple is at the center of technology's largest revolution ever and that longtime shareholders have been rewarded with gains of more than 1,000% . However, there is a debate raging as to whether Apple remains a buy. The Motley Fool's senior technology analyst and managing bureau chief, Eric Bleeker, is prepared to fill you in on reasons both to buy and to sell Apple, as well as what opportunities remain for the company (and your portfolio) going forward. To get instant access to his latest thoughts on Apple, simply click here now.

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