Despite Uncertainty, Markets Flirt With Record Highs

Stock MarketThere’s no arguing that it’s a crazy time to be a market participant. It’s year five on the post-financial collapse calendar, and a global recession has changed Wall Street and the investment ecosystem permanently. In the United States, investors are digesting new regulations and a new tax architecture, re-evaluating post-crisis strategies and preparing to enter what could finally be predictable growth after years of volatile uncertainty.

But the political climate is as terse and uncertain as it has ever been. America dodged the fiscal cliff through a solution that is only elegant in its awkwardness. A tax agreement out of Congress that catalyzed a New Year rally has turned into a hostage situation where the debt ceiling is being used as a bargaining chip for spending cuts. Consumer sentiment in December crashed as a result.

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But despite all this, the U.S. equity markets have pressed upwards for the past five years, and are now flirting with all-time highs. No one, not in Washington or on Wall Street, is happy with the way things are, but the economic engine must keep turning. Economic indicators in the U.S. and around the world suggest that while there is a long, difficult road ahead, the worst may, finally, be over.

Here’s a look at the major U.S. indices as they look to set new records…