Speed Reads

Taking Stock

The Dow's record high is a big deal if you own stocks. Half of Americans don't own any.

Wall Street rejoiced early Wednesday when the Dow Jones Industrial Average — a benchmark index of 30 U.S. companies — rose above 22,000 for the first time, then celebrated again when it closed above 22,000.

But fewer than 15 percent of Americans own individual stocks and about half of the country has no money invested in the stock market at all — not through a 401(k), IRA, mutual fund, or pension fund — according to Federal Reserve surveys and Gallup polls. Those people are probably not as excited about the Dow's new high-water mark, and its sprint northward from about 18,000 last November — the "Trump bump," sustained by robust corporate earnings.

"Only people with assets like stocks and houses are benefiting, and that's why this recovery has been weak," Torsten Slok, chief international economist at Deutsche Bank, tells The New York Times. According to Gallup, 89 percent of households earning $100,000 or more have some amount invested in the market, versus only 21 percent of families earning $30,000 or less. Stock ownership is "heavily tilted toward rich guys: doctors, lawyers, accountants," Steven Rosenthal, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center, tells The Washington Post. "It's not the middle class."

That has always been true, but the disparity seems to have gotten worse after people were burned in the 2008 market crash. Before the crash, in 2007, 65 percent of Americans adults were invested in the stock market, versus 54 percent currently.