Why Occupy Wall Street may have been an epic sign to buy stocks

The Occupy Wall Street movement began five years ago on Saturday – and the S&P 500 is up almost 80 percent in that time. Some investors say that's not entirely a coincidence.

The organization of Occupy Wall Street was one force in a larger assembly of events that "represented anger at Wall Street and also pretty poor valuations, which was an inviting target for patient investors," Eddy Elfenbein, editor of the Crossing Wall Street blog, said Thursday on CNBC's "Trading Nation."

Elfenbein cited S&P's downgrade of U.S. debt in August 2011, which led to a market drop that in hindsight may have been overblown.

At the same time that this hurt stocks, the event "softened the ground for movements like 'Occupy.'"

The S&P closed on Friday, September 16, 2011, at 1,216.01. On Thursday, it closed at 2,147.26.

"We are the 99 percent," went the movement's motto, venting frustration with the financial industry and economic inequality. Hundreds of activists and marchers filled Zucotti Park and the streets of lower Manhattan, protesting discontent with the financial industry.

One poster the organization propagated featured a dancer balancing atop the iconic bronze charging-bull statue on Wall Street. And above the dancer's head, written in the sky: "What is our one demand?"

While some would say the question was never quite answered, the cornerstone of protesters' concerns was rising economic inequality, which is connected to the difference between market performance and economic growth.

"Protests haven't really been a part of the Wall Street beat for journalists in decades. So it's taking a bit of time to adjust to the new reality," one CNBC.com analysis noted three weeks after the protests began.

"I don't think that the Occupy movement itself, people sitting in the streets and parks downtown or outside of [Goldman Sachs CEO] Lloyd Blankfein's apartment is the reason we've rallied 75 percent in the last five years," Jacob Weinig, founding partner and portfolio manager at Malachite Capital, said Thursday on "Trading Nation."

"What it did highlight was the difference between Wall Street and Main Street, and you can correlate that a little bit to the performance of the U.S. economy versus the performance of U.S. stocks," Weinig said.

The stock market has done "exceedingly well. In a period of very easy money, of low rates and ability to borrow, the economy has recovered but not in such a strong way," he added.

"So the difference between equity performance and economic performance is really very significant and very much in correlation to the Occupy movement."


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Trading Nation is a multimedia financial news program that shows investors and traders how to use the news of the day to their advantage. This is where experts from across the financial world – including macro strategists, technical analysts, stock-pickers, and traders who specialize in options, currencies, and fixed income – come together to find the best ways to capitalize on recent developments in the market. Trading Nation: Where headlines become opportunities.

Michael Santoli

Michael Santoli joined CNBC in October 2015 as a Senior Markets Commentator, based at the network's Global Headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.  Santoli brings his extensive markets expertise to CNBC's Business Day programming, with a regular appearance on CNBC's “Closing Bell (M-F, 3PM-5PM ET).   In addition, he contributes to CNBCand CNBC PRO, writing regular articles and creating original digital videos.

Previously, Santoli was a Senior Columnist at Yahoo Finance, where he wrote analysis and commentary on the stock market, corporate news and the economy. He also appeared on Yahoo Finance video programs, where he offered insights on the most important business stories of the day, and was a regular contributor to CNBC and other networks.

Follow Michael Santoli on Twitter @michaelsantoli

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