Stock Markets Cruise to Record Highs in First Half, but Investors Grow Uneasy

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Stocks are set to close out the first half of the year with double-digit percentage gains, powered by an economic recovery that many investors believe is still gathering pace.

The S&P 500 is up 14% this year through Tuesday, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average has climbed 12%. This quarter will mark both indexes’ fifth consecutive quarter of gains, their longest such streak since a nine-quarter stretch that lasted through 2017.

The mood should be ebullient. Data on everything from hiring to consumer spending to small business-owners’ confidence have bounced back and stayed above their pandemic lows.

Yet, for many money managers, the past few months have felt like anything but a straightforward win. After a 12-month period in which it seemed stocks could do nothing but go up, many say the outlook is growing increasingly opaque.

These days, “nothing really gets killed, but nothing really does that great,” said Andrew Slimmon, a managing director at Morgan Stanley Investment Management. “There’s no definable trend, [and] there’s little agreement in the market.”

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