There’s always a fuss when the Dow reaches a new, big number, as it did last Wednesday. The excitement is almost always overblown – the market is more than the Dow Jones industrial average, the economy is more than the market, etc. – and this particular milestone comes with the potential for further misinterpretation: Dow 20,000 isn’t necessarily a vote of confidence in President Trump’s ability to deliver economic growth.

The Dow has gained about 10 percent since Trump was elected, and for good reason: His proposed policies would augment the stream of cash flowing to investors. Corporate tax rate cuts, for example, would leave more money to pass on to shareholders, while cuts in capital gains rates would allow them to keep more for themselves.

More money for investors, though, doesn’t automatically translate into more prosperity for everyone. Economic growth has been weak since the Great Recession, in part because of low levels of capital investment. Companies would be more likely to boost this spending if Trump offered specific enticements, or if they saw more demand for their goods and services. On those fronts, the future is less clear. Stock investors tend to be relatively wealthy and hence less likely to spend each added dollar they make, so their gains probably won’t do much for demand.

True, Trump’s plan to increase government spending on infrastructure could boost growth more broadly and enhance productivity. But much will depend on execution. Uncontrolled deficit spending could spook markets and leave the U.S. deeper in debt without providing much long-term benefit.

Dow 20,000 is certainly a welcome milestone for investors. But it’s not the measure American workers will use to judge whether the president has fulfilled his promise to improve their lot.

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