The stock market broke through two milestones Monday before giving up nearly all its gains late in the day.
Stocks rose from the opening bell, lifting the Dow Jones industrial average above 16,000 for the first time and the Standard & Poor's 500 index past 1,800, two big markers in a historic bull market. But by the end of day, both indexes closed below those levels.
The Dow managed to eke out a gain over Friday's close with a late push higher, ending just 24 points shy of 16,000. Both the Dow and the S&P 500 are on track for their best year in a decade and have soared more than 140 percent since bottoming out in the Great Recession more than four years ago.
Experts said the rise in stocks has occurred without the widespread participation of small investors.
Mitchell O. Goldberg, president of the investment firm ClientFirst Strategy, Inc. in Dix Hills, said he doesn't see the market as a bubble about to burst but says many small investors remain nervous about it: "I still think most people don't realize the extent to which paper assets, particularly stocks, have recovered."
So many investors had huge portions of their wealth wiped out when the tech bubble burst in 2000, and then in the stock market crash that began in 2008, said Alan Newman, editor of Crosscurrents, a Wantagh-based newsletter on the economy and investing, "they don't trust Wall Street."
What has driven stocks higher this year has been improvement in the U.S. economy, record profits at companies and easy-money policies from the Federal Reserve.
The Dow has risen for six weeks straight and is up 22 percent so far this year. The market hasn't risen that much in a whole year since 2003.
Including this year's gains, the S&P 500 is up 165 percent from the start of the current bull market in March 2009, 56 months ago.
The S&P 500 closed down 0.4 percent at 1,791.53. The Dow rose 14.32 points to 15,976.02.
With Tom Incantalupo
and Maura McDermott