Dow Jones Closing History: Top Highs, Lows Since 1929

Dow Sets Record in August 2016

Dow Closing Record
The Dow hit a new record on August 15, 2016. Photo: Getty Images

The stock market, as measured by the DJIA (Dow Jones Industrial Average), has historically performed similarly to the economy. A bear market occurs during a recession and a bull market during an expansion. The history of the Dow since the Great Depression shows these stock market fluctuations reflect natural stages of the business cycle

Dow Highest Closing Record

The Dow's all-time closing high is 18,636.52 set on August 15, 2016.

 Its prior record was set on July 20. That was the seventh trading day in a row it set new closing records. The earlier records are in the following chart. 

DateJuly 12July 13July 14July 15
Close 18,347.67 18,372.12 18,506.41 18,516.55 
     
DateJuly 18July 19July 20August 11
Close18,533.0518,559.0118,595.0318,613.52

 

Investors flocked to safe U.S. markets after turbulence rocked the European Union in July. First, there was the July 13 election of a new Prime Minister in the United Kingdom. That was because of the June 24 Brexit vote.The Dow fell 610.32 points the day after the UK voted to leave the EU. That threatened the U.S. businesses that are the UK's largest investors. On July 14, a terrorist attacked the French resort town of Nice. On July 15, the Turkish military failed in a coup attempt on President Recep Erdogan's government. 

Before that, the Dow was in a market correction between August 2015 and April 19, 2016.

  It fell to a low of 15,660.18 on February 11. The 2016 downturn began on January 4 when the Dow fell 467 points. Investors worried about a slowdown in China's economic growth. Two days later it dropped another 400 points when China changed how it pegs the yuan to the dollar. By January 7, the Dow had fallen 5.2% to 16,514.10, the worst yearly start ever.

The next day, it dropped to 16,346.45. For the week, the Dow lost 1,078.58 points or 6.18%. The damage continued. By January 20 it fell to 15,464.97 in intraday trading but closed up at 15,766.74. Investors panicked over plummeting oil prices, the devaluation of the yuan, and turmoil in China's stock market

2015 Highs

After setting the record high in May 2015, the Dow fell 531 points on August 21, closing at 16,459.75. On August 24, it fell another 1,089 points to 15,370.33 in the first few minutes of trading. That correction was more than 16% lower than its all-time high set in May, putting it into a market correction but not a bear market. Investors worried about China's yuan devaluation and the uncertainty over the Fed's rate increase. The market closed higher, at 15,871.39.The selloff continued on Tuesday, when the Dow closed at 15,666.44, but regained its upward momentum on Wednesday, closing at 16,285.51. For more, see Black Monday

Why is the Dow so volatile? Just a few companies were responsible for the 2015 highs.

Companies like Apple and IBM borrowed billions, thanks to today's record-low interest rates, to buy back shares. Why? It artificially raises their earnings-per-share and the prices of the remaining outstanding stocks. One analyst said that 99 companies in the S&P 500 boosted their earnings-per-share by 4%, simply by lowering the number of shares outstanding.

 
Date Feb 20 Feb 24 Feb 25 Mar 2 May 18 May 19
Close  18,140.44 18,209.19 188,224.57 18,288.63 18,298.88 18,312.39

2014 Highs 

The Dow closed at 18,053.71 on December 26, its high for the year. It's 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, the largest amount since 2007--right before the stock market crashed. (Source: Bert Dohrman, Why Are Stocks Still Rising? Is This a Bubble?, Forbes, July 24, 2014)

As a result, stock market gains since the 2008 financial crisis have been on mediocre volume. Only three days traded more than 200 million shares, a level similar to the late 1990s. Volume fell after the recession and hasn't returned. For more, see Dow Rockets, Volumes Plummet.

Here are the other highs in 2014.

December
Date235222326
Close 17,879.5517,912.6217,958.7917,959.4418,024.1718,053.71

 

                                                                        November

Date467101113
Close17,484.5317,554.4717,573.9317,613.7417,614.9017,652.79
       
Date182021242628
Close17,687.8217,719.0017,810.0617,817.9017,827.7517,828.24

 

October 31: Close of 17,390.52. The FOMC announced it wouldn't raise interest rates until 2015.

September:

  • 17,279.74 on September 19. 
  • 17,265.99 on September 18. 
  • 17,156.85 on September 17.  Fed reduced Quantitative Easing, signaling economic health. 

July:

  • 17,138.20 on July 16 was the last gain before Dow headed into correction territory for two months. 
  • On July 3, the Dow closed at 17,068.26, the first time above 17,000.
  • It closed at 16,976.24 on July 2 and 16,956.07 on July 1.

June:

  • 16,947.08 on June 20.
  • 16,945.92 on June 10.
  • 16,943.10 on June 9.
  • 16,924.28 on June 6.
  • 16,836.11 on June 5.
  • 16,743.63 on June 2.

May:

  • 16,717.17 on May 30.
  • 16,715.44 on May 13.
  • 16,695.47 on May 12.
  • 16,583.34 on May 9.

April: The Dow digested its 2013 gains until April 30 when it hit 16,580.84. 

February 3: The Dow hit its 2014 low of 15,372.80.

2013 Highlights 

The Dow gained 3,472.56 points, greater than any prior year on record. Its percentage increase was 26.5%. Here are the closing records for the year:

December: It set 8 closing records, the last being 16,576.55 on December 31. Here are the others: 

  • 16,504.29 on December 30.
  • 16,479.88 on December 26.
  • 16,357.55 on December 24.
  • 16,294.61 on December 23.
  • 16,221.14 on December 20.
  • 16,179.08 on December 19.
  • 16,167.97 on December 18.

November: It set 7 closing records, the last being 16,097.33 on November 27.

October 29: Close of 15,680.35 on October 29

September 18: Closed at 15,676.94. 

August 2: Closed at 15,658.36.

July 1: Closed at 15,460.92.

May: 15,409.39 on May 28, and 15,056.20 on May 7, 2013. It briefly rose above 15,000 for the first time on May 2, but couldn't sustain it.

March 11:  It closed at 14,254.38, taking five years to surpass its previous record of 14,164.53 set on October 9, 2007.

2008-2009 Recession

The Dow's drop was more painful than in any other downturn. It fell more than 50% in just 17 months. That was less than the 80% drop during the Great Depression, but that loss took three years.

On October 9, 2007, the Dow closed at its pre-recession all-time high of 14,164.43. However, fourth quarter GDP growth was -1%, announcing the start of the recession.(It was later re-estimated at 2.9%) The Dow started declining gradually. 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.

However, on Monday, September 15, 2008, Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy. On Wednesday, panicky bankers withdrew $144 billion from money market funds, nearly causing a collapse. In response, the Dow plummeted 13% in October. By November 20, 2008, it fell to 7,552.29, a new low. It was not yet the real market bottom. The Dow climbed to 9,034.69 on January 2, 2009, before screeching down to 6,594.44 on March 5, 2009.

On July 24, 2009, the Dow beat its January high, rising to 9,093.24 by close of day.

2001 Recession

The Dow peaked on January 14, 2000, closing at 11,722.98, thanks to the boom in Internet businesses. It started falling soon afterward, hitting its first bottom of 9,796 on March 7. It bounced around until the markets closed following the terrorist attacks on September 11. When the markets reopened on September 17, 2001, the Dow dropped to 8,920.70. Threats of war drove the Dow down until October 9, 2002. On that day, it closed at 7,286.27, a 37.8% decline from its peak. No one knew for sure if the bull market had begun until the Dow hit a higher low on March 11, 2003, closing at 7,524.06.

1998 Currency Crisis

In 1997, Thailand cut its peg to the dollar, leading to a devaluation of currency throughout Southeast Asia. A year later, Russia devalued the ruble and defaulted on its bonds. The stock market dropped 20%. The Long-Term Capital Management hedge fund nearly collapsed, threatening to push its banking investors into bankruptcy. Then-Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan convinced them to support the hedge fund, averting further disaster.

1990-1991 Recession

Iraq invaded Kuwait in July 1990, causing the Dow to drop 18% in three months, from 2,911.63 on July 3 to 2,381.99 on October 16, 1990.

1987 Stock Market Crash

On October 19, 1987 the Dow fell 22.6%, from 2,246.73 to 1,738.74. The 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 August 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.

1980-1982 Recession

The Dow dropped 16%, from a high of 903.84 on February 13, 1980, to a low of 759.13 on April 21, 1980. The Federal Reserve, under Paul Volcker, lowered the Fed Funds rate to 8.5% in response. The Dow rose to 1,004.32 on April 28, 1981. But the Fed then raised rates to combat inflation, which reduced business spending. By August 12, 1982, the Dow had dropped 22.6%, to 776.92.

1973-1975 Recession

The Dow fell 45% from its peak of 1,051.7 on January 11, 1973, to its low of 577.60 on December 4, 1974. To find out the complex causes of this recession, see How Nixon Created Stagflation.

1970 Recession

The Dow dropped 30% between December 31, 1968, when it hit its high of 908.92, and May 26, 1970, when it reached its bottom of 631.6.

1962 Cuban Missile Crisis

The U.S. launched an embargo against Cuba in February 1962. The Dow dropped 26.5% from its post-election height of 728.8 on December 1, 1961, to its June 26, 1962, low of 535.76. Tensions rose in October 1962, and the Dow dropped 2% the day after President Kennedy's speech.

1960 Recession

The Dow fell 13.9% from its December 31, 1959, height of 679.36 to its November 1, 1960, low of 585.24.

Recession of 1957

The Dow dropped 14.1%, from its height of 506.21 on August 1, 1957, to its low of 434.71 on November 1, 1957.

Recession of 1953

The Dow dropped less in this recession than it has done in most weeks in the 2008-2009 recession - only 7.5% between January 1 and September 1, 1953.

1949 Recession

The Dow dropped 19.3% between June 1948 and June 1949.

1945 Recession

The Dow fell 19.3% between June and October 1946. (Source: NBER, Business Cycle Expansions and Contractions)

The Great Depression

The Dow fell 90%. For more see, Stock Market Crash of 1929.

For more about the causes of these recessions, see Recession History

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