The Dow Jones Industrial Average (the Dow) is the index of the 30 top-performing U.S. companies. The most recent all-time-high record (to date of this writing) was on March 17, 2021, when it rose above 33,000 for the first time, shortly after exceeding 32,000 on March 10, 2021. The record high may be related to the stimulus funds passed by Congress in early 2021.
On Nov. 24, 2020, it broke 30,000 for the first time, closing at 30,046.24. The highest closing record before that was on Feb. 12, 2020, when it closed at 29,551.42 before the 2020 recession set in and the COVID-19 pandemic really took over.
- In March of 2021, the Dow hit all-time highs of over 33,000. On March 10, 2021, the Dow broke 32,000 for the first time. On Jan. 7, 2021, the Dow broke 31,000 for the first time, closing at 31,041.13.
- The previous high was 29,551.42 on Feb. 12, 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold.
- The stock market crash of 2020 began on March 9, 2020. The Dow fell a record 2,013.76 points to 23,851.02. It was followed by two more record-setting point drops on March 12 and March 16. The stock market crash included the three worst point drops in U.S. history.
- On March 11, 2020, the Dow closed at 23,553.22, down 20.3% from the Feb. 12, 2020 high. That launched a bear market and ended the 11-year bull market that started in March 2009. Investors were worried about the impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic. A year later, on March 17, 2021, the Dow reached new all-time highs.
The stock market historically performs similarly to the economy. A bear market (prices decrease 20% or more) occurs during a recession and a bull market (prices increase) during an expansion. A bull market had been running since March 11, 2009, when the Dow closed at 6,930.40. Until March 2020, it hadn't fallen 20% since then, making it the longest-running bull market in U.S. history. However, the 2020 stock market crash and recession saw record-setting drops.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average is one of the many gauges of stock market performance. This history of the Dow since the Great Depression demonstrates how stock market fluctuations reflect the natural stages of the business cycle.
Record Highs Set in 2021
On Jan. 20, 2021, the Dow hit an all-time high of 31,188.38. On Jan. 7, 2021, the Dow exceeded 31,000 for the first time, closing at 31,041.13. The record high occurred on the day of the inauguration of President Joe Biden.
On March 10, 2021, the Dow hit an all-time high of 32,297.02, and the Dow opened on the 11th rising above 32,500 intraday.
Record Highs Set in 2020
The Dow ended the year at a record high of 30,606.48. On Nov. 24, 2020, it broke 30,000 and closed at 30,046.24. Its record before that was achieved on Nov. 16, 2020, when it finished the day at 29,950.44. It also started 2020 on a high note. The Dow set a record high of 28,868.80 on Jan. 2, 2020. It set another record a week later. It then set a milestone on January 15 when it rose above 29,000.
Record Highs Set in 2019
In 2019, the Dow hit two milestones and set 22 record closes. On July 3, the Dow hit a new high when the Trump administration announced it would resume trade negotiations with China, averting additional tariffs (taxes on imports).
The Dow responded with new highs throughout the latter part of 2019, even though trade negotiations had broken down until November. It hit a milestone on July 11, closing above 27,000, and then another on Nov. 15—closing above 28,000 (in the chart below, milestones are noted).
Record Highs Set in 2018
The Dow hit three 1,000-point milestones in 2018. It hit two of them in the first few weeks in January, closing above 25,000 on January 4. The index breached 26,000 on January 17, then continued on to set 15 closing records in the rest of 2018.
The records set in the fall were the first ones since the Dow reached 26,616.71 on Jan. 26, 2018. After hitting the January 26 peak, the Dow went into free fall, dropping 4% the next week. On February 8, it entered a market correction when it fell 1,032.89 points to 23,860.46.
Investors were encouraged by the progress made on Trump's North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiation. On Aug. 27, 2018, the Dow ended a six-month correction (a decline of 10% or more) when it reached 26,049.64. This was 10% above its closing low of 25,533.20, reached on March 23. This was the longest correction since 1961, when a correction lasted for 223 sessions.
Record Highs Set in 2017
The index set 70 closing records in 2017. For the first time, the Dow reached five 1,000-point milestones in one year. On Jan. 25, 2017, the index closed at 20,068.51.
This high occurred only 42 trading sessions after closing above 19,000. That is the second-fastest rise in U.S. history (currently, the record is 24 sessions to go from 10,000 to 21,000 in 1999).
On March 1, 2017, it closed above 21,000 which followed a 12-day run. This was the longest such streak since the record 13-day stretch in 1987. When the Dow breached 22,000 on Aug. 2, 2017, it became the first time to hit three such milestones in one year.
The index closed above 23,000 on Oct. 18, 2017; slightly more than a month later, it broke 24,000. The Dow had two streaks lasting more than 10 days, which had not occurred since 1959.
The index had three nine-day runs, last occurring in 1955 (when there were four nine-day stretches). The Dow continuously moved higher eight months in a row (the last occurrence of this was in 1995). The year 2017 ended with five milestone records set.
Record Highs Set in 2016
The Dow hit one milestone and had 26 closing records in 2016. Of the 26 records set that year, 17 occurred after the presidential election. The index's 2016 closing high was 19,974.62, set on Dec. 20, 2016.
The Dow suffered a market correction between August 2015 and April 19, 2016, leading to a 2016 downturn. It began on January 4, when the Dow closed 160 points lower as investors worried about a slowdown in China's economic growth.
By Jan. 7, 2016, the Dow had fallen 5.2% to 16,514.10, the worst yearly start ever. The next day, it dropped to 16,346.45. In that week, the Dow lost 1,078.58 points (6.18%) with the damage continuing.
By January 20, it closed at 15,766.74, as investors panicked over plummeting oil prices, the devaluation of the yuan, and turmoil in China's stock market. It then fell to a low of 15,660.18 on February 11.
In July and August, the Dow rose as investors flocked to safe U.S. markets after turbulence rocked the European Union. On June 24, the Dow fell 610.32 points the day after Brexit (when the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU). This threatened U.S. businesses, the U.K.'s largest investors.
A November streak occurred after Donald Trump's presidential win on November 8. Traders were confident in a business-friendly Republican president. The Dow closed above 19,000 on Nov. 22, 2016.
Record Highs Set in 2015
The Dow hit one milestone and six closing records in 2015. After setting the record high in May 2015, the Dow fell 531 points on August 21, closing at 16,459.75. On August 24, Black Monday, it fell another 1,089 points in the first few minutes of trading to 15,370.33.
That correction was more than 16% lower than its all-time high set in May of the same year, putting the index into a correction but not a bear market. Investors worried that China's yuan devaluation and the uncertainty over the Fed's rate increase would push the index further downward.
The market closed higher at 15,871.39. The sell-off continued on Tuesday (Aug. 25) when the Dow closed at 15,666.44, but regained its upward momentum on Wednesday, closing at 16,285.51.
The Dow was volatile in 2015 because it was based on just a few companies. Record-low interest rates allowed firms such as Apple and IBM to borrow billions to buy back shares. These actions artificially raised their earnings per share and the prices of their remaining outstanding stocks (stocks which are still held by shareholders).
Record Highs Set in 2014
The Dow set three milestones in 2014 and set 39 closing records. Its low for the year was 15,372.80, reached on February 3. Share repurchases among the S&P 500 companies were 59% higher in the first quarter of 2014 than the first quarter in 2013. In total, $159.3 billion was spent. It was the largest amount since 2007, right before the stock market crashed.
On April 30, the Dow surpassed 16,000. On July 3, it broke 17,000; and on July 16, it hit a new record, before heading into a correction for two months.
The Federal Open Market Committee announced on October 31 that it wouldn't raise interest rates until 2015. Investors applauded the guarantee for lower interest rates for the remainder of 2014.
The index closed above 18,000 on December 23, and then closed its high for the year at 18,053.71 on Dec. 26. The chart below shows four of those closing records, as they increase by the thousand.
Record Highs Set in 2013
Two Dow milestones were achieved in 2013. The Dow gained 3,472.56 points during 2013, higher than any prior year on record. Its percentage increase was 26.5%.
The index recovered from the Great Recession on March 5, 2013, closing at 14,253.77. It took five years to surpass its previous record of 14,164.53 set on Oct. 9, 2007.
The Dow rose above 15,000 for the first time on May 7. There were 52 closing records for the year. The chart below shows 12 of those records:
Dow Jones Activity from 1929 to 2009
The Dow's activity broke new records in terms of downward movement in 2009. While it wasn't as dramatic as the Great Depression, the drop happened much more quickly. After recovering from its Great Depression level, the Dow continued to be affected by several recessionary periods and crises leading up to the 2009 downturn.
The 2008 stock market crash was more dramatic than any other downturn in U.S. history. The market fell more than 50% in just 17 months. This was less than the 90% drop during the Great Depression. It took almost four years for the market to bottom out at that time.
On Oct. 9, 2007, the Dow closed at its all-time high (pre-recession) of 14,164.43. Fourth-quarter gross domestic product growth (GDP) contracted 1%, announcing the start of the recession (it was later re-estimated at a positive 2.9%).
The Dow started to gradually decline. After the failure of Bear Stearns in April 2008 and a negative GDP report in Q2 2008, the Dow dropped to 11,000. Many analysts felt that this 20% decline was the market bottom—it wasn't.
On Monday, Sept. 15, 2008, Lehman Brothers Holding, Inc. (an investment bank) declared bankruptcy. On Wednesday, panicky bankers withdrew $144 billion from money market funds, almost causing a collapse.
On Sept. 29, 2008, the Dow fell 777.68 points. This was its most significant single-day point drop ever. Investors were stunned when the U.S. House of Representatives rejected a $700 billion bailout bill to save failing banks.
The Senate reintroduced the bailout as the Troubled Asset Relief Program on Oct. 3. Yet, the Dow plummeted 13% in October. By Nov. 20, 2008, it fell to 7,552.29, a new low.
This was still not the real market bottom. The Dow climbed to 9,034.69 on Jan. 2, 2009, before screeching down to 6,594.44 on March 5, 2009.
On July 24, 2009, the Dow finally reversed course. It beat its January high, rising to 9,093.24 by the close of the day.
Stock market gains since the 2008 financial crisis were mediocre in volume. Only three days traded more than 200 million shares, a level similar to the late 1990s. Volume fell after the recession and didn't return.
The Dow peaked on Jan. 14, 2000, closing at 11,722.98, thanks to the boom in internet businesses. It was the end of one of the greatest bull markets in U.S. history. The Dow had risen 1,409% since its 776.82 close on Aug. 12, 1982.
It started falling soon afterward, hitting its first bottom of 9,796 on March 7, 2000. It regained an upward momentum, hitting 11,124.83 on April 25, 2000. It bounced around in this range until March 14, 2001, when it dropped to 9,973.46. This began the 2001 recession. The Dow bounced around until the markets closed following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. When the markets reopened on Sept. 17, 2001, the Dow dropped to 8,920.70.
The threat of war drove the Dow down until Oct. 9, 2002. On that day, it closed at 7,286.27, a 37.8% decline from its peak. The recession ended in November. No one knew if a new bull market had begun until the Dow hit a higher low on March 11, 2003, closing at 7,524.06.
1998 Currency Crisis
On July 2, 1997, Thailand cut its peg to the dollar after failing to defend its currency from speculative attacks.
Currency values fell throughout Southeast Asia. On Oct. 27, 1997, the Dow fell 554.26 points for its biggest point loss ever at that time. It closed at 7,161.15, a 7% loss, resulting in the U.S. stock market suspending trading.
On Aug. 17, 1998, Russia devalued the ruble and defaulted on its bonds. By Aug. 31, the Dow had fallen 13%, from 8,714.64 on Aug. 18 to 7,539.06 on Aug. 31. The Long-Term Capital Management hedge fund almost collapsed, threatening to push its banking investors into bankruptcy. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan convinced them to support the hedge fund, averting further disaster.
On Aug. 2, 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. The Dow fell 17% in three months, from 2,864.60 on Aug. 2 to 2,365.10 on Oct. 11, 1990.
1987 Stock Market Crash
On Oct. 19, 1987, the Dow fell 23%, from 2,246.73 to 1,738.74. The Black Monday stock market crash may have been caused by computer trading that forced sell orders when the market turned down. The Dow didn't regain its Aug. 25, 1987, peak of 2,722.42 for two years. The loss of liquidity from this crash led to the savings and loan crisis in 1989.
The Dow dropped 16%, from a high of 903.84 on Feb. 13, 1980, to a low of 759.13 on April 21, 1980. The Federal Reserve, under Paul Volcker, lowered the federal funds rate (the interest rate for banks to loan money overnight to each other) to 8.5% in response.
The Dow rose to 1,024.05 on April 27, 1981. The Fed then raised rates to combat inflation, which reduced business spending. By Aug.12, 1982, the Dow had dropped 22.6% to 776.92.
On Dec. 4, 1974, the Dow closed at 598.64. It had fallen 45% from its peak of 1,051.70 on Jan. 11, 1973. President Nixon helped create this recession by ending the gold standard.
The Dow dropped 30% between Dec. 3, 1968, and May 26, 1970. It fell from a high of 985.21 to a low of 631.16.
1962 Cuban Missile Crisis
The United States launched a trade embargo against Cuba on Feb. 7, 1962. The Dow dropped 26.5% from its post-election height of 728.8 on Dec. 1, 1961, to its June 26, 1962, low of 535.76. Tensions escalated on Oct. 14, 1962, when U.S. spy satellites discovered Soviet nuclear missile bases in Cuba.
President John F. Kennedy demanded the removal of the weapons and launched a 13-day naval quarantine to prevent ships from reaching Cuba, which may have held weapons from the Soviets.
An agreement was finally reached between the Soviet Union and the United States, in which Kennedy agreed to remove all nuclear missiles set in Turkey on the border of the Soviet Union in exchange for Khrushchev removing all missiles from Cuba. The Dow dropped 2% the day after JFK's Oct. 22 speech. The crisis ended on Oct. 28, 1962.
The Dow fell 13.9% from 679.36 on Dec. 31, 1959, to 585.24 on Nov. 1, 1960. It closely followed the economic downturn of the recession, which started in April 1960. It lasted 10 months, until Feb. 1961 when President Kennedy used stimulus spending to end it.
Recession of 1957
The Dow dropped 14.1%, from 506.21 on Aug. 1, 1957, to 434.71 on Nov. 1, 1957. The drop corresponded to the eight-month recession, a period from Aug. 1957 to April 1958, as a result of the Fed's contractionary monetary policy.
Recession of 1953
The Dow fell 10.1% from 292.14 on Jan. 2, 1953, to 262.54 on Sept. 1, 1953. On Nov. 23, 1954, the Dow hit a new high of 382.74. It had taken 25 years for it to beat the pre-Depression high of 381.17, set on Sept. 3, 1929.
The downturn reflected a 10-month recession, from July 1953 to May 1954, during the military demobilization following the Korean War.
The Dow dropped 16% from 193.16 on June 15, 1948, to 161.60 on June 13, 1949. It did so in relation to an 11-month period between November 1948 and October 1949, when the economy began its adjustment to peacetime production levels.
The Dow rose 19.2% during this recession, which lasted between February and October 1945. It was at 153.79 on Feb. 1, 1945, and rose to 183.37 on Oct. 1, 1945. The economy contracted 10.6% because government spending dropped when World War II ended. But business spending was robust, which boosted stock market performance.
The Great Depression
The Dow fell 90% in less than four years. It was at 381.17 on Sept. 3, 1929—by July 8, 1932, it was just 41.22. The kickoff to the Dow's slide was the stock market crash of 1929, but the Great Depression had already started in Aug. 1929, when the economy contracted.
The market crash began on Oct. 24, Black Thursday, and continued until Black Tuesday. Stock prices fell 23%, causing investors to lose $30 billion (the equivalent of $396 billion today). The public was terrified because that was more than the entire cost of World War I. It took 25 years for the Dow to regain its September 1929 high.