If the steady gains and eerie calm so far this year on Wall Street feel familiar, it’s for good reason: nearly the same thing happened last year.
In both instances, economic hopes helped drive sharply higher during the historically-bullish first few months of the new calendar year.
But before investors start counting their gains, it’s worth remembering that 2011 ended poorly as a slew of unscripted events like the debt-ceiling debacle wiped out the markets’ early rise, leaving the major indexes virtually unchanged on the year.
“We can’t lose sight of the fact that extrapolation has hurt you in each of the last two years. This is not a perfectly clear smooth-sailing environment,” said Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist at BTIG.
As of Thursday’s closing bell, the S&P 500 is up a very impressive 8.4% so far this year and the Nasdaq Composite is up a whopping 13.5%. Those are striking gains considering the year is just seven weeks old.
By comparison, the S&P 500 generated a solid rally of 6.3% as of February 16 of last year, while the was up 6.5%.
During each run-up, the markets enjoyed relative tranquility: the VIX, the markets’ so-called “fear gauge,” stayed below 24 -- or just over half its 2011 high of 45.