The Dow Jones Industrial average hit a new high on Tuesday, beating the previous record set in 2000. The index of 30 blue chip stocks ended the session at 11,727.34, breaking the old record by five points. Analysts attribute the record gains to falling oil prices and growing investor confidence.
Tuesday's record setting pace came on the second straight day of sharply lower oil prices.
Alec Young is an Equity Market Strategist at the investment-rating firm Standard & Poor's. "After peaking in July at $78 a barrel, West Texas intermediate crude oil is currently trading at $59 a barrel -- down about 25 percent. And we think one of the big drivers of that is an anticipation of slower growth, not only in the U.S., but globally."
And that's helping to ease inflation concerns among investors. It's also putting more cash back into consumer's pockets.
One woman is optimistic. "It's actually going to help with my holiday spending and I'm starting to think about the holidays."
Overall, Young says the economic picture looks favorable. "We have a more benign inflation outlook, the Federal Reserve is widely expected to be done raising rates now and people are looking ahead to possible easing of interest rates, so that tends to be better for the economy, help the economy continue to grow, albeit at a slower pace."
It has taken more than six years for the Dow Industrial index to make it back into record territory.
Hugh Johnson, the chief investment officer at Johnson Illington Advisors says that's how long it's taken to absorb the shocks of September 11th, the war in Iraq, the collapse of the dotcom bubble and a string of corporate scandals that drove many investors away. "Once you kill of confidence, it takes a long time to rebuild confidence."
Johnson says earlier fears that high energy prices and rising interest rates might push the economy into recession have given way to optimism that the current economic slowdown will be mild. "No hard landing or recession. That's what the Federal Reserve wants, that's what investors want. And I think that's as much reason as any that the market is going higher and we're setting this new high"
Although the gains provide a psychological boost, analysts say the index of major stocks is a narrow gauge of the stock market. Some investors warn that it is still unclear which direction the U.S. economy is headed.