We humans love round numbers. No one was excited when the four-minute-and-one-second mile barrier was broken. We don't celebrate a batsman who scores 99. And we're so attuned to them when we shop that retailers know $1.99 is far more likely to make us buy, compared to the nice, round - and mentally much higher - $2 mark.
I don't claim to understand the evolutionary biology behind it, but my guess is that our brains find the short-cut of round numbers easier. After all, "about 10 lions" chasing you is probably as specific as humanity needed to be for most of our history.
Which brings me to ASX 6000. No, that's not a new index but the fact the ASX 200 index hit 6000 points on Tuesday, while the All Ordinaries hit that level last week - both for the first time since the global financial crisis. And to layer on another round number, we're almost exactly 10 years from the market's pre-GFC high.
What does that mean? The "points" are a measure of market capitalisation or value. When a stock goes up x points, that means it goes up x dollars. But for an index, it's weighted according to the size of the companies.
But what does it mean?
Well, as any serious investor will tell you, it's completely unremarkable. Whether we're at 5974 points is no more important or useful for investors, than if we were at 6018. And yet that magical, mentally pleasing '6' at the beginning is something that many are fixated upon, as if it unlocked some special level in the computer game of life.
And we shouldn't be surprised that we're here. Over more than a century, the developed world's share markets have gained about 10 per cent per year, on average. So the odds were very good that we'd get here eventually. Just as we're all but certain to pass 7000, 8000 and 10,000 points - and very probably within a decade. (In fact, if the average holds, we'll see the All Ords pass 100,000 in just 30 years!)
But there's no guarantee.
And it's very probable that the ASX lags the US markets over that time frame, too. Look at some of the biggest US companies to have reported earnings in the past couple of weeks. Amazon, Google and Facebook, to name three, are growing like topsy. And that's almost an understatement. They are companies with multi-billion dollar revenues, growing like start-ups.
And our largest companies? NAB recently handed down 2.5 per cent growth. And reported that it will cut $1 billion in costs, ostensibly just to stand still in the face of increased competition and technological disruption. NAB and its financial services brethren make up over 40 per cent of the ASX 200.
I trust you see the problem: if the Australian market is going to continue to increase at a good rate, that two-fifths of the index is going to have to do better than low-single-digit growth. Otherwise, it's the equivalent of swimming fully clothed - you might still make progress, but it's going to be a tough, slow slog.
Of course, that's if you focus only on "the index". While the top end of town lumbers under its own weight, small and medium-sized Australian businesses will continue to do their thing. It may not be apparent - the index calculation gives CBA, for example, 10 times the weighting in (and therefore 10 times the influence on) the ASX 200, compared to our 30th-largest company - but it'll be happening.
It's something all investors need to be aware of. If the banks do continue to struggle, and your portfolio looks like the market - chock full of banks and insurers - you will too. But if you compile a portfolio based on tomorrow's likely winners, and throw in some exposure to the US for good measure, you stand a very good chance of throwing off the shackles of a slower-growing ASX 200.
New report: The "blue chips" of tomorrow aren't the blue chips of yesterday. If you want to look forward rather than backward, we've released our three best ideas for 2017. Click here to learn more.
Scott Phillips is the Motley Fool's director of research. You can follow Scott on Twitter @TMFScottP or email ScottTheFool@gmail.com. The Motley Fool's purpose is to educate, amuse and enrich investors.