Notes From the Fieldby Martin Weil

April 25, 2015

NASDAQ Composite, a Fifteen Year Journey

InFT Nasdaq Composite 4-24-15vestors had something more to cheer about this week as the NASDAQ Composite Index finally surpassed its prior high of 5048 set during the Dot Com bubble in March 2000. It has been a long journey since then as the tech-heavy index sunk as low as 1100 in 2002.

With this week’s landmark, a $1,000 investment into the NASDAQ at that March 2000 peak is now once again worth the original $1000 invested. Or is it? After inflation, or in “real” terms, that $1,000 today is worth the equivalent of just $715 in March 2000 dollars. So NASDAQ investors of March 2000, you are not back to par just yet. Breakeven for you, after inflation, would require the index to be at 7,000 today, not 5000.

On the flip side of this trying tale, an investor who fought off the overwhelming urge to flee risk in early 2009 and invested into the NASDAQ at the depths of the financial crisis would be sitting pretty, with $4,000 today for every $1,000 invested then. Timing is everything I guess.

But how to judge timing? There is no proven way I know to get the timing anywhere close to spot on in advance. But valuations are a useful, if highly imperfect, tool. Valuations were almost as compelling in early 2009 as they were terrifying in early 2000. However, investing in stocks in early 2009 essentially meant “running into a burning building,” while getting out of the market during the Dot Com bubble risked looking like a fool. In the context of a market flowing irresistibly either higher, or lower, investing with a valuation discipline often means running counter to conventional wisdom. This can be very very difficult, and it can be costly in the short-term, even for professional investors.


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