The U.S. stock market could soon lay claim to being in the longest bull run in modern history, and it is more likely to power on than fizzle as it heads toward its golden years.
For many strategists, the current bull market started its life after the wrenching trip to the bottom on March 9, 2009, one of the darkest moments of the financial crisis, when the S&P 500 touched 666. Since then it climbed to a high of 2,872, in January, and still holds above 2,850, for a gain of more than 320 percent.
On August 22, the bull market turns 3,453 days old— putting it one day beyond what is now the longest bull market, which ran from October 1990 and ended with the bursting of the tech bubble in March 2000.
"From our perspective, there's still room to run. ... We're positioned for the continuation of the bull market. We do think we're late cycle," said Daniel Suzuki, portfolio manager at Richard Bernstein Advisors.
The current bull market has been called the most unloved at many stages in its nine-year life. But now, it is facing record earnings and the best stretch of economic growth yet. Those are two key factors for market gains, and they are in place at the same time the Federal Reserve removes some of the easing it instituted to create liquidity and encourage investors to buy riskier assets, such as stocks.
"This probably will end up being the longest bull market ever. We are very focused on three things — profits, liquidity and sentiment — and all these things today are actually quite supportive," said Suzuki.
"Profits outside the U.S. have started to show clear signs of slowing, but the U.S. profit cycle continues to be very strong. It's actually the best earnings season on record," Suzuki said. "That's one big reason the market is back up above 2,800 after selling off earlier in the year. ... Underlying fundamentals are still very healthy and across all sectors. It's not just one sector driving it."
The economy is also being buoyed by corporate and individual tax cuts, which appear to be encouraging spending. In the case of corporations, it's encouraging capital spending and a record pace of stock buybacks, both fuel for stock prices. The economy grew at 4.1 percent last quarter, its fastest pace in four years, and is expected to grow by 3 percent or better in the second half.
"There are major positives on the fundamental side. That's why we think this bull market is not at the finish line ... it's between second and third base," said Ryan Detrick, senior market strategist at LPL Financial. "We had a 19.4 percent correction in 2011, and the average stock in February 2016 was down 25 percent. ... You can make some argument that we had two major corrections along the way." In 2016, the S&P declined about 14 percent.