Dow 10,000? Thanks, Silicon Valley!

Tech seems like a safer bet these days

By Owen Thomas
|  Wednesday, Oct 14, 2009  |  Updated 6:41 PM PDT
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Dow Jones Big Close

AP

The Dow closed above 10,000 for the first time since last fall.

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Dow Jones Big Close

Sometimes a .10 of a point can make all the difference.
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A Wall Street surge pushed the Dow Jones Industrial Average past 10,000 Wednesday.

Wait, did we say "industrial"? Better call it "technological."

The comeback to levels not seen since the collapse of Wall Street last fall owes much to Silicon Valley mainstays. Cisco and Intel are part of the closely watched basket of stocks, as are Microsoft and IBM, both major employers in the region.

The first time the Dow hit 10,000, Cisco, Intel, and Microsoft were all higher, buoyed by frothy investors during the dotcom boom.

Now, they're powering the Dow more through process of elimination.

Wall Street's investment banks were crushed and Detroit's automakers have been humbled. Retailers and consumer-goods manufacturers have been pinched by the end of America's shopping spree.

The Dow used to embody business as usual -- the titans of America's industrial economy. But now widgets aren't something we manufacture. They're bits of codes on Web pages, the fruit of intellectual effort, not manual labor.

Likewise, the collapse of New York's once-haughty banks just shows that the real payoff is in software engineering, not financial engineering.

Used to radical shifts in business, the tech sector has largely eschewed the debt that has crippled other industries.

Betting on the movement of stocks has always been a random walk. But the Dow isn't just a number for traders. It represents the pulse of the American economy. And as that economy increasingly leans on Silicon Valley for signs of life, shouldn't we be asking why the tech sector doesn't figure more prominently on that list?

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