It's been a volatile ride punctuated by some setbacks along the way. But over the past two years, investors have seen U.S. equities advance with incredible strength. In fact, U.S. stock market averages have more than doubled since their nadir in March 2009. Despite these gains—or perhaps because of them—many investors remain wary about the prospects for stocks. Many are gun-shy after witnessing two recessions and the two worst stock routs of their lives in just the past 10 years. Others sat and watched the current rally of the past two years and fear they may have missed the buying opportunity. In either case, investors are worried and they are seeking direction.
This sense of unease should not be surprising. The list of "what could go wrong," seems longer than ever. The world is still feeling the effects of the 2008-2009 credit crisis, evidenced by ongoing sovereign debt issues in Europe. The global economy is in better shape than it was a couple of years ago, but can hardly be called robust. U.S. unemployment remains strikingly high and some areas of the economy—such as the housing market—have yet to even start to recover. Many investors are also becoming increasingly concerned about inflation, particularly given U.S. fiscal imbalances. Indeed, real inflationary problems are starting to crop up in some areas of the world.
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