Two Reasons the Stock Market Is Really Different This Time

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Since the beginning of last year, the stock market has not followed any historical pattern, which may be frustrating to traders. 

Consider the market this year. Many had expected that when the Federal Reserve began to scale back the pace of its bond purchases, riskier assets such as stocks would fall. Instead, the S&P 500 Index has been reaching all-time highs.

There are two reasons the market has been different this time around.

  1. Information Overflow

    During the last few years, social media has disseminated information more widely and faster than ever before. Twitter and countless blogs are available 24/7 to anyone who has access to the Internet.

    Many of us bloggers repost the same things over and over written in a different way. These posts are no longer scarce information privy only to smart money, insiders or those who have put in countless hours of market study.

    For example, the record low VIX anomaly has become such a huge topic of discussion that it has gone mainstream and was recently featured on an NPR podcast called Planet Money that talks about economic issues in layman's terms for those not in finance-related fields. (VIX is a gauge of volatility in the market; low readings indicate a lack of fear among investors.)

    In years past, that type of information might have been known only to larger hedge funds, quantitative analysts and those with resources and statistical data not available to the average retail trader.

The theory of market efficiency -- that all known information is priced into a security -- still applies, but with a twist.

Certain people will find an edge to trading, but once that edge becomes mainstream, the market once again trades efficiently. Now, with the fast-track dissemination of information, the periods of market inefficiency have become shorter. 

  • Central Banks' Policy

    After the housing crisis in 2008, the Federal Reserve began a zero-interest rate policy. When that wasn't enough, it began an unconventional approach with quantitative easing -- the purchases of mortgage-backed securities -- and with "forward guidance," or offering clear communication about future interest rates.

    In the past, the Fed had controlled only the short-term interest rate, but now by telling Wall Street firms that they can borrow at low rates for a very long period of time, presumably those firms would eagerly lend money out to the American people also at lower interest rates thereby stimulating the economy.

    Similar central bank policies have been taken up across Europe and are gaining momentum across the globe. The point is that the new efforts by central banks have pumped an enormous amount of money into the economy in what can be deemed an "experiment."

    Economists, analysts, market strategist and the Fed itself can try to surmise how this will all end, but the truth is nobody truly can or does know.

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    This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.

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