A substantial rebound in the market has taken the Dow Jones industrial average up to its highs of the year, and nearly all the way back to a level that hasn't been seen since June: 18,000.
And at this point, all the index needs in order to cross that elusive level is for two stocks to rise to analysts' average price targets.
The Dow is a price-weighted index, meaning it replicates a strategy in which an investor owns just one share of each stock in the group. For this reason, the higher the share price of a given stock, the more importance it has in the index. That's why right now, the Dow's most important stocks are 3M, Goldman Sachs and IBM.
Analysts are none too bullish on 3M or IBM. 3M shares are expected to stay flat, based on analysts' price targets as compiled by FactSet, while IBM is actually overvalued by 11 percent, going by the median analyst price target.
However, Goldman Sachs is seen as a serious candidate for outperformance. 57 percent of the analysts who cover the stock rate it as a "buy," and the median price target on the now-$157 name is $187. If Goldman makes the expected 19 percent rally, then it alone will add more than 200 points to the Dow.
That would take the index up near 17,935. It would still need a bit of help, then, to get to the 18-handle.
And that's where Apple could come in.
The tech giant's share price is above the average for the index, giving it somewhat outsized importance in determining the Dow level. And analysts are markedly bullish on Apple, giving the stock a median price target of $130, according to FactSet.
If the 19 percent rally implied by that target arises, Apple will add another 140 or so points to the Dow level. Hello, Dow 18,075.
While Apple and Goldman Sachs are the stocks that could generate the most gains for the index if analysts' guesses turn out to prescient, sell-side stock prognosticators are actually rather bullish on the whole. If each of the 30 Dow stocks was trading at its median price target instead of its current price, the Dow would be trading above 18,600.
That handily beats the real-life Dow record price of 18,351 seen back in May.