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The strange dynamic that’s guiding stocks higher

The S&P 500's surge past the 2,000 level this week for the first time ever is just the latest milestone for the great rally that stocks have enjoyed over the past 5½ years. But Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices, doesn't think the latest splashy market headlines will do anything to bring in the many retail investors who have long been staying on the sidelines.

Individual investors are "still nervous, they're concerned," Silverblatt said on CNBC's "Futures Now" on Tuesday. "Even though we're into this rally over five years now, and they're getting very little if they're sitting in a bank or some alternatives, they are not moving back into the market." And he said the S&P's crossing of 2,000 won't lure retail investors.

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After all, many small investors will not soon forget the market collapses of 2000/2001 and 2008/2009, which robbed them of their confidence in stocks. And in fact, the S&P has taken more than 16 years to get from 1,000 to 2,000—yielding a mere 6.2 percent annualized compound return, including dividends, from then to now.

Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters
Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

So if that's the case, what explains the market's drumbeat of new highs? Silverblatt looks to the other key group in the market.

"On the other side you've got institutions, who are sitting in the market. They're reallocating somewhat, but they're not pulling out. These institutions appear to be more concerned with missing out on potential gains than the market declining."

"Both of these groups are just sitting tight," Silverblatt added. "And the market, in between, has taken small steps upward."

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So what will shake the confidence of institutions or the reticence of retail investors?

"I'm not sure what kind of event, ... but it's going to be major," Silverblatt said. These two groups are "really difficult to move."

—By CNBC's Alex Rosenberg.

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