Investors have had to navigate a market that for the last 13 years has delivered no real returns, according to Morgan Stanley's Greg Fleming.
Today's S&P 500 reading in the 1,680 range and around historic highs doesn't look so special when compared to the March 2000 top at 1,527.
Using some basic math—specifically, the government's inflation calculator—the current value would have to be closer to 2,000 to have grown in lockstep with inflation.
"The U.S. stock market is on almost everybody's list at the top of where people think the most opportunity will be in the next year. I don't disagree with that," Fleming said at the Delivering Alpha conference presented by CNBC and Institutional Investor. But, he added, if you invested $1 at the March 2000 peak "you would still have a dollar."
The statement came in the broader context of the supposed "Great Rotation" in the market of money flowing from bonds to equities. There has been some evidence that a transition has begun, though the evidence is far from convincing.
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In the big picture, Fleming said the trends emphasize the important of investors to be creative in their choices.
"You really need to think with asset allocation in a long-term plan," he said.
Rather than a mass exodus to stocks, Fleming said he's seen a more gradual move from clients.
—By CNBC's Jeff Cox. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxCNBCcom.