The U.S. stock market on Wednesday set a record for the longest-running upswing in its history, fueled largely by the rise of superstar technology companies and an unprecedented era of cheap money from low-interest rates.
The current bull market has been running for almost nine and a half years, surpassing the dot-com boom in longevity.
The market has created $18 trillion in wealth since the Standard & Poor’s 500 bottomed on March 9, 2009, but the gains have been highly uneven, creating winners and losers in the market and broader economy.
A bull market is widely understood to refer to period when stocks climb without a 20 percent or worse decline.
While the market has wobbled several times since its nadir in 2009, it hasn’t fallen enough to end the historic run — though analysts see dangers on the horizon.
Before the financial crisis, the most valuable companies on the stock market were ExxonMobil, General Electric, Microsoft and AT&T. Now it’s all technology companies — Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft, with Facebook neck and neck with famed investor Warren Buffett’s company, Berkshire Hathaway, for fifth place.
The world’s most powerful technology companies have played an outsized role in driving the record-setting bull market.
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The technology sector accounts for 26 percent of the U.S. stock market’s value today, the largest sector by far and up from 16 percent before the financial crisis.
These mammoth tech companies have become central to many people’s daily lives, and the data they collect on users’ social and spending habits has become one of the most valuable commodities on the planet, elevating the big five tech companies above big energy for the first time.
But this decade’s tech boom has not been as obviously helpful to the wider economy.
While stocks have shot up, growth has been slow in this recovery and pay gains have been meager, a stark difference from the dot-com era. The 1990s saw computers enter the workforce, helping fuel high levels of worker productivity, wage increases and growth.
In contrast, the more recent rise of apps and social media has been accompanied by a flatlining of worker productivity and growth and wage gains far below historic norms.