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Apple gives Wall Street another reason to celebrate, but these milestones can often lead to a 'negative response'

Key Points
  • Apple hit a market value of $1 trillion briefly on Thursday, another milestone for Wall Street.
  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average crossed 25,000 and then 26,000 in January before falling back.
  • The trading milestones bring cheers but also a bit of headline fatigue.
A trader wears a 'Dow 25,000' hat while working works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, Jan. 4, 2018.
Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

There's nothing like a silly milestone to make traders cheer on Wall Street.

On Thursday, Apple became the first publicly traded U.S. stock to hit the $1 trillion mark, about seven months after the day the Dow Jones Industrial Average crossed the 25,000 mark.

The moment, technically at 11:48:04 a.m. ET, splashed across Twitter and news websites. There weren't Apple $1 trillion hats on the heads of floor traders at NYSE like there have been for Dow index milestones, but the mood was just as light.

"It's something to aspire to," Art Cashin, director of floor operations for UBS, told CNBC. "It keeps their attention."

Apple is listed on the tech-heavy Nasdaq, which was up 1 percent on Thursday. But it is also a component of the 30-stock blue chip Dow index, though not its biggest weighting.

These are moments that tend to attract the interest of regular people, who normally have nothing to do with the daily ins and outs of the stock market except to have their retirement assets invested in it. But of course, such moments are often fleeting reminders that what goes up comes down.

The Dow crossed 25,000 on Jan. 4 and kept climbing above 26,000 but then lost 11 percent of its value by the middle of March. After that, all those who bought $25 Dow 25,000 hats from the exchange's online store had to wait until May to wear them again.

Incidentally, the Dow 20,000 hat, which traders could first wear on Jan. 25, 2017, is now for sale on Amazon for $31.

The hats date back decades on the NYSE floor, where traders donned their Dow 10,000 caps in March 1999 to mark the milestone of an earlier era. That momentous occasion would be overshadowed by Dow 11,000 just weeks later and then, of course, the dot-com stock bubble would burst a year later.

That's part of the problem, Cashin says. Hitting a milestone mixes euphoria with a certain amount of headline fatigue. "You get a kind of exhaustion," he said, "and sometimes it brings a negative response."

Indeed, Apple was trading above its $1 trillion value for only minutes as of midday Thursday before dropping back slightly.