Dow Highest Since May 2008? Maybe Not?

The headlines are crowing of the magnificent CAT earnings (channel stuffing?) which in turn is helping the Dow reach its highest point since May 2008 (CAT is responsible for 27 of the Dow's 30 point gain today alone). This must be the signal that we-the-consuming-people need to borrow-and-spend again right? Well, no. Unfortunately, as many already know, the process of indexing is implicitly flawed in many ways - most importantly survivorship bias. If we compare the performance of the components of the Dow at the start of 2008 to the actual Dow index performance, there is a very significant divergence of around 7% (or around 900 points). This is actually understating the difference (as it is an average) as we note that 5 of the 30 names from 2008 have lost more than 70% of their value (GM, AIG, C, BAC, and AA) since January 2008 (averaging -88% among those). Three names have risen by more than 70% (MCD, HD, and IBM - thank you Warren) as 18 of the 2008 Dow 30 names are lower (on average -36.5%) with the remaining 12 Dow 2008 names up on average 33%. What is worse is the realization of the dramatic loss in real purchasing power as Gold has risen by more than 100% since the start of January 2008 as the Fed continues to realize it can abuse the lemming-like focus on nominal returns.

Dow compared to the Average performance of the 2008 Dow names and Gold.

The Dow and the Dow adjusted for Gold's purchasing power.

 

If it were not for CAT, HD, MCD, and IBM things would look a lot different as we note CAT is up 24% year-to-date (beaten only by the dramatic 32% gain in BofA) and is adding 27 points to the Dow today alone.