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Historic Milestone: Dow Surges Past 30,000 Points For 1st Time

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

In this country, the stock market is setting new records this week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average topped 30,000 on Tuesday for the first time ever. Now, the stock market is not the economy, but the market's surge reflects expectations about the economy. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: The U.S. economy is facing a tough winter. Millions of people are out of work. Job growth has been slowing. And COVID-19 infections are soaring, leading to new government restrictions on business and discouraging people from going out and spending money. So why is the stock market setting records? Because investors are looking ahead - to next summer and beyond.

Chief U.S. market strategist Dave Sekera of Morningstar says they're betting the experimental vaccines we've been hearing about will be widely available by then, enabling consumers to start traveling, eating out and going to movies again.

DAVID SEKERA: That leads to, you know, a broad reopening of the economy and economic normalization in 2021.

HORSLEY: Morningstar expects the economy to grow next year by 4.7%. That rosy forecast is what investors are gambling on. Stocks have staged a remarkable comeback, with the Dow climbing 65% from its pandemic-low last March. President Trump, who's often treated the stock market as though it were a scorecard of his own performance, ducked into the White House briefing room Tuesday for some momentary gloating.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The stock market's just broken 30,000 - never been broken, that number. That's a sacred number - 30,000. Nobody thought they'd ever see it.

HORSLEY: But the celebration had a tinge of bitterness since the Dow reached that milestone on the day after the formal transition began from the Trump administration to President-elect Joe Biden. Trump had often warned during the campaign that putting a Democrat in the White House would spell ruin for the stock market. But investors seem perfectly comfortable with the idea, especially if the Senate remains closely divided, making any big tax increase unlikely.

Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF MARLEY CARROLL'S "FIREFLIES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.