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Don't blink: Stocks race past milestones

May 14, 2014: 8:16 AM ET
The S&P 500 climbed above the 1,900 mark on Tuesday, just 172 days after its previous milestone.

The S&P 500 climbed above the 1,900 mark on Tuesday, just 172 days after its previous milestone.

Records are falling on Wall Street faster than you can say "high-frequency trading."

After crossing over the 1,500 line in March 2000, it took the broad index a long time -- 4,790 days -- to break through the 1,600 mark, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices. That's more than 13 years! No wonder that period is known as Wall Street's "Lost Decade."

But it's been a rapid climb since 2013.

Consider: When the bulls pushed the S&P 500 above the 1,700 line in August 2013, the achievement occurred a mere 90 days after the prior milestone. That's shorter than most college semesters.

To surpass 1,800 took a mere 113 days.

The S&P 500 crested above the 1,900 threshold for the first time ever Tuesday, just 172 days from that last big marker. That's less than the Major League Baseball season or a typical pregnancy.

milestone image sp500

Of course, part of the reason why these milestones have been passed so quickly is the fact that the S&P 500 needs to cover less ground on a percentage basis. For example, the 1,900 milestone represents a gain of just over 5% from 1,800. By comparison, the move between 900 and 1,000 needed an 11% rally.

It's also been a largely bullish time to own stocks. The S&P 500 has surged 33% since the end of 2012 as the U.S. economy continues to grow, Europe's debt mess has been largely cleaned up and Washington's fiscal troubles have eased somewhat.

There have been other periods of speedy milestones on Wall Street, especially during the Dotcom Bubble.

It took the S&P 500 just 50 days to surge between the 1,000 and 1,100 plateaus between February 1998 and March 1998.

The S&P 500 eked out a tiny gain on Tuesday, enough to give the index its 10th record close of this year alone. But that's nothing compared with last year, when the index notched 45 record closes.

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