Despite Record Stock Markets, Almost Half of Americans Own No Stocks

by Pam Martens and Russ Martens , wallstreetonparade:

On April 7, 2011 the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 12,409.49. Yesterday, it closed at 22,048.70, an increase of more than 9600 points over the six-year span. A bull market of this magnitude lasting more than half a decade would have been expected by Wall Street experts to have sucked in even the most cynical Wall Street naysayers. It hasn’t.

Each April, the polling firm, Gallup, conducts its annual Economy and Personal Finance Survey. It asks U.S. adults whether they personally or jointly have money invested in the stock market, either in individual stocks or stock market funds, including through vehicles such as 401(k)s and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs).

Gallup began its 2011 survey on April 7, 2011, the day that the Dow closed at 12,409.49. That year’s survey found that 45 percent of Americans owned no stocks. Despite a meteoric rise in the major stock indices since then, this year’s Gallup poll found that 45 percent of Americans still own no stocks. Since 2011, the number of Americans eschewing stock ownership has ranged from the mid 40 percent level to a high of 47 percent in April 2013. In April 2007, before the financial downturn had gripped the attention of Americans, Gallup found that only 34 percent of Americans owned no stocks.

While record household debt levels and inability to save certainly play some role in the low level of stock ownership, continuing distrust in Wall Street is likely also a key factor.

Since the financial crash in 2008, the tentacles of Wall Street corruption have touched every facet of American life and have been chronicled in bestselling books, on the big screen, in documentaries and in the hearing rooms of Congress. Words like “casino,” “rigged,” and “banksters” have become part of the new lexicon to describe how Wall Street functions.

On July 8, 2014, Senator Jack Reed summed up today’s markets in a Senate hearing: