What is a Stock Market Index?
“How did the stock market do today?”
At surface, this seems like a simple question – but it’s also deceptively difficult to answer. The market can be defined as many different things, and there are actually over 100,000 publicly traded companies in the world to choose from.
Luckily, the use of a stock market index can help define a particular market, as well as track its performance in a way that is easy to reference.
Types of Indices
Today’s infographic from StocksToTrade.com defines a stock market index as a thermometer that measures the health of a group of stocks. When this particular group of stocks changes in value, the index follows it along.
A stock market index can track a group of stocks based on several different factors:
Global: Some indices, such as the MSCI All-Country World Index, aim to be a proxy for all global equities.
Regional Geography: A stock market index can also track a specific region, such as Europe. As an example, the EURO STOXX 50 tracks the performance of the largest and most liquid 50 stocks in the Eurozone.
National: Indices can also serve as a proxy for the performance of an entire country’s equities. The FTSE 100 in the United Kingdom tracks the 100 largest companies traded, which total to 81% of the total market capitalization of the exchange.
Industry: A stock market index can try to track the performance of an industry as a whole. The GDXJ, for example, is an ETF based on an underlying index that tracks the performance of smallcap mining companies focused on gold and silver.
Exchange: Indices also are used for specific exchanges. The S&P/TSX Venture Composite Index, for example, is used to represent the performance of companies that trade on the TSX Venture exchange in Canada.
Main Indices in the U.S.
Last year we did a graphical primer of the differences between the main indices and exchanges in the U.S., but we’ll summarize the major indices here as well.
S&P 500: First calculated in 1923, the S&P 500 covers the largest companies on the NYSE and Nasdaq exchanges in the United States, and represents $21.4 trillion in value.
Dow Jones Industrial Average: The DJIA is a price-weighted index of 30 significant companies traded on the NYSE and Nasdaq. It has a market capitalization of approximately $6 trillion, and was founded back in 1885.
Nasdaq Composite: Used more as a proxy for the technology industry, this index tracks 3,000 equities on the Nasdaq exchange, worth $6.8 trillion. It does include some companies not located in the U.S.
Interested in learning more about exchanges and indices? See the 20 largest stock exchanges in the world.
How Decentralized Finance Could Make Investing More Accessible
Under the current global financial system, billions of people do not have access to quality assets. Here’s how decentralized finance is changing that.
Infographic: How Decentralized Finance Could Make Investing More Accessible
Did you know that a majority of the global population doesn’t have access to quality financial assets?
In advanced economies, we are lucky to have simple options to grow and protect our wealth. Banks are all over the place, markets are robust, and we can invest our money into assets like stocks or bonds at the drop of a hat.
In the United States, roughly 52% of people are invested in the stock market – but in a place like India, for example, this portion drops to a paltry 2%. How can we make it possible for people on the “outside” of the financial system to gain access?
Breaking Down Barriers
Today’s infographic comes to us from Abra, and it shows how decentralized finance could make investing a more universal phenomenon, especially for those that don’t have access to the modern financial system.
It lays out four key obstacles that prevent people in developing markets from investing in quality financial assets in the first place:
- The Geographic Lottery
Where you live plays a massive role in determining your ability to build wealth. In advanced Western economies, the average person is much more likely to be invested in financial markets that can help compound wealth.
- Financial Literacy and Complexity
Roughly 3.5 billion adults globally lack an understanding of basic financial concepts, which creates an impenetrable barrier to investing.
- Local Market Turmoil
Even if a person is mentally prepared to invest, local market turmoil (hyperinflation, political crises, closed borders, etc.) can make it difficult to get access to stable assets.
- The Cost of Investing in Foreign Markets
Foreign assets can be pricey. One share of Amazon is $1,800, which is realistically more money than many people around the world can afford.
In other words, there are billions of people globally that can’t take advantage of some of the most effective wealth-building tactics.
This is just one flaw in the current financial system, a paradigm that has created massive amounts of wealth but only for a specific and well-connected group of people.
Enter Decentralized Finance
Could decentralized finance be the alternative to open up access to financial markets?
By combining apps with blockchain technology – specifically through public blockchains such as Bitcoin or Ethereum – decentralized finance makes it possible to get around some of the barriers that are created by more traditional systems.
Here are some of the innovations that are making this possible:
Smart contracts could automate transactions and remove intermediaries, making investing cheaper, faster, and more accessible.
Fractional investing could allow partial or shared ownership of financial assets by using tokenization. This would make expensive stocks like Amazon ($1,800 per share) available to a much wider segment of the population.
Location independent investing is possible through smartphones. This would make it possible for people in remote parts of the developing world to invest, even without access to nearby financial institutions or local markets.
Like the internet with knowledge, decentralized finance could reshape the world by making financial access universal. Who’s ready?
How Macro Trends Shape the Market’s Future
From climate change to aging populations, macro trends are changing the future. Here’s how to use them to your advantage.
It’s hard to say for certain what the future holds.
Without the luxury of a crystal ball, investors must find opportunities by analyzing the market. There’s just one problem: the 24/7 news cycle is enough to make anyone’s head spin.
Where should an investor focus their attention, when almost every new venture is forecast to be the next big thing?
The Powerful Influence of Macro Trends
Today’s infographic comes to us from U.S. Global Investors, and it highlights how analyzing macro trends can serve as a key investment tool.
Two Main Investment Approaches
When selecting stocks, many investors fall into one of two camps:
1. Top-down Investing
- Analyze macroeconomic trends.
- Identify specific sectors and regions.
- Choose individual stocks based on company fundamentals.
Considering the aging Chinese population, a top-down investor may choose to invest in Chinese healthcare stocks.
2. Bottom-up Investing
- Complete in-depth company analyses.
- Select a stock that is outperforming others in its sector.
A bottom-up investor could analyze Home Depot and choose to invest if it had strong performance relative to Lowe’s.
These approaches can be used separately, or even combined together. Zooming out allows investors to identify the big picture opportunities. Then, a bottom-up approach can find the companies that best capitalize on each trend.
What is a Macro Trend?
A macro trend is a long-term directional shift that affects a large population, often on a global scale. For example, climate change is affecting industries in both positive and negative ways. While “green” industries have seen increased support, ski resorts are projected to have 50% shorter winter seasons by 2050.
There are a couple of main ways to identify macro trends:
- Government policy
Government policies are a precursor to change, shaping macro trends and creating opportunities. For instance, Obama’s Recovery Act fueled growth in renewable energy with a $90 billion investment.
- Economic cycles
The cyclical nature of the economy means that investors can also use history to identify macro trends. Consider fiscal and monetary policy, which is implemented in response to economic data:
- Expanding economy
The central bank raises rates and the government reduces fiscal stimulus. As a result, inflation is moderated.
- Contracting economy
The central bank lowers rates and the government increases fiscal stimulus. As a result, growth is stimulated.
- Expanding economy
Discovering Long-Term Value
Macro trends are a key tool for discovering long-term market opportunities. They are beneficial because they are:
- Unbiased and data-driven
- Not swayed by daily headlines
- Tend to avoid riskier, niche industries
- Can be diversified by sectors and regions
There are currently many macro trends at play. For example, Trump’s sweeping tax reform and deregulation boosted the U.S. economy, lifting GDP growth to a 13-year high of over 3% in 2018 Q3.
However, not everyone’s a winner. America’s reduced taxes have made Canada less competitive. It’s estimated that 4.9% of Canada’s GDP is at risk due to ripple effects from U.S. tax reform. What’s more, regulators worry that the bank deregulations might put the financial system at risk.
The proposals under consideration… weaken the buffers that are core to the resilience of our system.
— Lael Brainard, Member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve
So, how do investors distill this wealth of information into a future of wealth?
Spotting the Next Wave
In today’s hyper-connected world, it’s easy to get lost in data overload. Thinking big picture allows investors to focus on trends that:
- Have a long-term outlook
- Affect a large population
- Create a clearer vision of the future
Then, an investor can target the most promising regions and sectors. When used effectively, this approach enables investors to ride the next big wave that will shape markets.
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