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Measured Dow 20,000 reaction feels different than bubble-fueled Dow 10,000 party, investors say

New York Stock Exchange Chairman Richard Grasso (L) and New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) wear 'Dow 10,000' hats on March 29, 1999.
Henry Ray Abrams | AFP | Getty Images
New York Stock Exchange Chairman Richard Grasso (L) and New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) wear 'Dow 10,000' hats on March 29, 1999.

Seventeen years after first crossing above 10,000 at the height of the dotcom stock bubble in March 1999, the Dow Jones industrial average rose above 20,000 Wednesday. It's been a long volatile ride with two major bear markets in between.

CNBC.com asked some notable investors and traders to reflect upon Dow 10,000 — where they were and what they thought about it — and share how they feel about Dow 20,000. Here's what they said (responses edited for brevity):

James Altucher, best-selling author, entrepreneur

James Altucher
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James Altucher

On Dow 10,000:

"When the Dow hit 10K in March 1999 I had sold my first company six months earlier and was riding high. I had no idea there could ever be a crash. I was stupid and young and inexperienced. Volatility happens no matter how high or low the Dow is. ... When it happened, I bought a big apartment, I invested a ton of money in stupid businesses. I was like a drunken rock star on steroids. Two years later I was dead broke.

On Dow 20,000:

"I don't think Dow 20K means anything. People need to ask: Will the innovation that is happening now change the future? If yes, find the most innovative companies out there, invest, and close your eyes for the roller coaster. The future is not served on a dish. It's a tough ride to get there and requires leaders and technology and people with vision and passion. But it will get there, like it always does and we'll all eventually look back on Dow 20K and see it as just another blip on the ride."


Jeremy Siegel, finance professor, University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School

Jeremy Siegel
David Orrell | CNBC
Jeremy Siegel

On Dow 10,000:

"I was what I am today, a professor at Wharton, teaching macroeconomics in March 1999 when the Dow crossed 10,000. But the real headline was the Nasdaq, tech and dotcom mania. I wrote how that couldn't be maintained and it broke in January 2000."

On Dow 20,000:

"Going to 21,000 will be much harder. … Given valuations, markets will say: 'OK, I expect good things to happen, now I want to see some of them!'"


Tom Lee, co-founder, Fundstrat Global Advisors

Tom Lee
David Orrell | CNBC
Tom Lee

On Dow 10,000:

"In March 1999, I was a wireless equity analyst at Salomon Brothers and my daughter was 2½ years old. ... Every time the market sold off in 1999, our trading desks said they saw money flooding in. So there was never any angst about weakness."

On Dow 20,000:

"At 20,000 now, it proves that stocks are for the long run. Can you imagine what Dow 20,000 sounded like in 2008? Just eight years ago. ... It is like saying Dow 60,000 today."


Karen Finerman, co-founder, Metropolitan Capital Advisors

Karen Finerman
Neville Elder | Corbis | Getty Images
Karen Finerman

On Dow 10,000:

"Our hedge fund was underperforming in March as we were very skeptical on internet craziness and we were finding lots of plain, boring business that were so cheap and so out of favor vs. say Pets.com and 'anything.com.' To the extent 10K was driven by tech, we were very skeptical. To this day, I keep a book of '101 Best Internet Stocks to Own' written in 1999. Surprisingly, few [of them] still exist."

On Dow 20,000:

"To the extent 20K catches the eye of the retail investor (which it seems to), I think there is room to run."

James O'Shaughnessy, chairman & CEO, O'Shaughnessy Asset Management

Jim O'Shaughnessy
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Jim O'Shaughnessy

On Dow 10,000:

"In March of 1999 I was living and working in Greenwich, Connecticut, for my firm O'Shaughnessy Capital Management. I was the founder and CEO, and we thought it was wild. ... I did publish a commentary called the Internet Contrarian in which I argued that sooner or later many of the dotcoms will see their bubbles burst, for which I was roundly chastised."

On Dow 20,000:

"Dow 20,000 is just a number to me. It's the underlying factors and valuations which will determine where we go from here."


Stephanie Link, managing director, US equities, TIAA Global Asset Management

Stephanie Link
Scott Mlyn | CNBC
Stephanie Link

On Dow 10,000:

"I was a sales assistant at Dean Witter just learning the business. [It] didn't mean much to me at the time — round number. I thought the [Dow 10,000] hats were cute."

On Dow 20,000:

The "Dow isn't a broad index so I would prefer seeing new highs in the S&P 500 for confirmation that overall health of earnings is in fact occurring. And it will also be important to see what the leadership is — if it's led by defensives, that will be disappointing. If it's led by cyclicals, that is more encouraging related to global growth improving."


JJ Kinahan, chief market strategist, TD Ameritrade

J.J. Kinahan, Chief Strategist, TD Ameritrade
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
J.J. Kinahan, Chief Strategist, TD Ameritrade

On Dow 10,000:

"I was a market maker in the S&P 100 (OEX) pit at the CBOE. At that time I had three kids under the age of 7. ... I thought it was an amazing time as a trader. There was so much opportunity. I do believe, like most of my contemporaries, we had no idea how fast the world would change in the next few years from an open outcry to an electronic market. At the time, the amount of business in the trading pits was amazing."

On Dow 20,000:

"I think that the Dow is exciting here, but I do not feel the same euphoria, overall amazement and 'bubble type feeling' as I did at that time. It was the primary topic at all cocktail parties. I believe that reason may be twofold: 1) the advent of passive investing and 2) the education of retail investors. They believe now that the Dow is an interesting index, but not the end all, be all. The S&P 500 makes for a truer picture of the market overall."


Turney Duff, former hedge fund manager, author

Turney Duff, author of "The Buy Side."
Photo: Andrew H. Walker
Turney Duff, author of "The Buy Side."

On Dow 10,000:

"I was at this little up-and-coming $300 million fund called the Galleon Group. ... I didn't think anything of 10,000. My only goal was not to get fired. And only junior varsity traders followed the Dow. Guys I used to work with at Morgan Stanley made hats that said 'Doubt 10,000'."

On Dow 20,000:

"20,000 is just a number."

(Editor's Note: A version of this story was first published in December.)