The stock market has more than quadrupled since its recession low more than nine years ago. So getting it to double in the next 10 years? A piece of cake.
The question, according to Nick Colas, co-head of DataTrek Research, is "not if or when, but how" the S&P 500 will get to 6,000 in the ensuing decade, a move that actually would represent a 108 percent gain from its closing level Tuesday.
"The math here isn't especially daunting: 7% price appreciation to see that level, and layering on a 2% yield gets you to a 9% total return without reinvestment," Colas said in his daily market note. "That's below the 50-year average total return (10.1%) and close to the 2008-2017 experience (8.4%)."
Instead of focusing on the actual move, investors' time may be better spent thinking about what factors will drive the next move higher.
For Colas, the catalysts may not even be on the market's radar screen now.
"Getting to S&P 6000 won't be a function of seeing Apple, Amazon or Microsoft at $2 trillion valuations (although it would help)," he wrote. "It will be a few still-private companies, possibly not yet even created, that will allow US stocks to compound at their historic rates."
The U.S. market is currently on its longest bull run in history. Most technicians look back on March 6, 2009, as the turning point, when the S&P 500 bottomed at 666 as the market and economy were struggling to recover from the financial crisis. Though stocks have seen their shares of bumps and near-bear dives along the way, they've remained resilient as the expansion continues, interest rates remain low and corporate earnings surge.
Along with the run has come an outperformance in the U.S. that has left its global competitors in the dust. Most other global indexes remain below their pre-recession peaks or barely above.
Factors to drive the next leg higher, according to Colas' analysis, include the emergence of new leaders due to technological advances, the likelihood that any future bear markets are limited in impact, and the probability that the dollar will remain low in historical terms and unlikely to disturb a market where nearly 45 percent of revenue comes from international business.
To be sure, Colas cautioned that a sudden spike in rates likely would halt growth as would a recession beyond the "garden variety" nature.
But ultimately "growth and innovation trumps everything else," he predicted.
In that light, "the future is pretty bright here," Colas added. "And that is the best – and perhaps only – reason to be resoundingly bullish about the next 10 years.