All About Indexes

Whether you are using market indexes as benchmarks to track the potential performance and risk of a given investment or you are engaged in index investing, indexes have something to offer every investor.

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Thoughtful investors can gain significant insight on the market’s behavior by studying index values and understanding what the numerical changes in indexes might represent. To help give you the context for judging index performance, it helps to first know what goes into the numbers reported by common market indicators.

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What Is an Index, Really?

An index is a select group of investments whose collective performance can be taken to represent a market as a whole, or at least a clearly defined subset of that market. While some indexes may be recalculated once a day or less, indexes representing large, liquid and active markets (such as the US stock market) are typically recalculated continuously during trading periods to reflect up-to-the-moment pricing data and to indicate the direction and magnitude of the market’s price sentiments.

Of course, major US equity indexes are not simply the sums of the individual prices for the investments they represent. Rather, indexes such as the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average are statistical models of the universes they were created to mirror. They take the latest prices and adjust them to better reflect long-term changes in financial markets, the constituent companies and the economy.

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The numerical values of common indexes do not directly convey either the actual daily prices or percentage changes of their constituents, and when viewed as isolated points of data, major indexes typically provide little or no actionable significance. Rather, index values are intended to be viewed in a series so they can provide time lines that can chart relative performance from a consistent foundation. An index value today can be compared with its value days, years or even decades in the past to give a meaningful estimate of how the market might have changed over that time.
The components for each index are chosen according to the stated rules and policies of that index. Moreover, each index’s value is calculated using its own proprietary formula. As a result, even though two or more indexes may include the same company in their statistics, any particular market price change for that company is likely to have different effects on each index.

Distinguishing Among Different Indexes

The most commonly cited stock indexes in the United States—benchmarks such as the S&P 500, the Dow, the Morgan Stanley Capital International’s EAFE and Russell Investment’s Russell 2000—are actually parts of large index families. Some indexes in those families focus on specific areas of the market, such as large, midsized or small companies. Others specialize in sectors or investing styles such as growth and value. Each index has its own unique philosophy and methodology you should consider. Here are overviews of some of the key factors you can use to compare them:

• Coverage Criteria Some indexes use rigid statistical rules to select their constituents. For example, Russell Investment Group ranks substantially all publically traded stocks by their total market value, and then assigns each company on that list to an index based solely on its position on that list. Others use more fluid processes. For example, Standard & Poor’s analyzes and weights the relative importance of each business sector in the economy. It then selects cross-sections of companies from each sector to create stratified samples that mirror the market.
• Diversified or Focused? Among the most commonly quoted market benchmarks, the S&P 500 and Russell 1000 can be considered diversified, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average is not. Rather, it is composed of 30 of the largest and most venerable companies in the US economy. What the Dow might lack in market breadth, it could make up in depth—it has been calculated continuously since 1896, allowing direct performance benchmarking that stretches for more than a century.
• Sector Segmentation Many providers of diversified indexes segment their primary indexes into sector subsets. However, the definitions of sector vary, with different classification schemes in use. The Global Industry Classification Standard (GICS) was developed jointly by Morgan Stanley Capital International and Standard & Poor’s and forms the basis for each of these firms’ index sector distinctions. GICS is composed of 10 sectors, each of which includes one or more industry groups drawn from the GICS list of 24 such groups. The North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) and its ancestors such as the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system are widely used by economists, the Securities and Exchange Commission and some other index providers. This system defines more than 400 individual industries in the economy, each of which can be grouped into one of 24 different sectors. An investor looking to use indexes for a sector rotation strategy should consider the classification systems used by the indexes.
• Market Capitalization and Float In the context of indexes, there are no universally applicable definitions for large-cap, midcap or small-cap. A company that is listed as small in one provider’s universe may be considered medium or large in another’s. That’s because some index providers view only market value when making their groupings, while others may adjust their categorizations to reflect variances in company age or maturity, business factors and growth rates. Float is another factor that leads to variation. Some index providers consider all shares equally when assessing the size of a company. Others consider only the value of shares that can be publically traded, a statistic known as the free float. For example, a company with a large number of shares held by insiders who are bound by trading restrictions will have a much smaller free float than a similar-sized company with no stock subject to trading restrictions.
• Weighting is the practice of adjusting each constituent’s contribution to the index to reflect its relative size in the index. Weighting is most typically based on price per share or total company size. In price weighting, a stock whose share price is $20 will have twice the influence on the index as a stock whose share price is $10. In capitalization weighting, a constituent whose total market value is twice as great as another’s would have twice the influence on the index. The DJIA, for example, uses price-weighting factors in its calculations, while the S&P 500 uses capitalization-weighting factors.
• Company Domicile Major stock indexes in the United States all reflect pricing action on US stock exchanges. But some indexes (such as the S&P 500) include companies based outside the United States who list their shares here, while others (such as the Dow and Russell) limit their constituent universes to US-domiciled firms.
• Index Turnover Some firms follow fixed schedules for reevaluating their constituent lists and making changes to those lists. Russell, for example, undertakes this kind of index revision once each year, at the end of June. Others respond more fluidly. Standard & Poor’s analysts continually monitor their index constituents and make changes to their indexes as conditions warrant, sometimes as often as daily or weekly.
• Investability and Tracking Error While it may be impossible to invest directly in any index, asset managers can create portfolios that are intended to replicate index performance. Along the same lines, index architects can design benchmarks that simplify the process of replication for portfolio managers. One important tool for measuring how well a portfolio tracks an index is tracking error. In its simplest statistical form, tracking error is the arithmetic difference between portfolio returns and benchmark returns; the smaller the difference, the closer the manager is to the benchmark.
A Brief Guide to Major Investment Benchmarks Around the World

Here are many of the investment world’s most prominent and widely followed benchmarks (and keep in mind that this listing is only a sampling; index compilers typically create broad families of benchmarks based on their overall indexing philosophies and practices):

• Standard & Poor’s Composite Index of 500 Stocks (S&P 500® Index): The S&P 500 is a broad-based index of the average performance of 500 widely held US stocks. Many people believe that the S&P 500 includes the 500 largest stocks on the New York Stock Exchange. Not true: Rather, it includes the stocks of companies that are or have been leaders in their respective industries and that are listed on the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq system.
• Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA): Following the returns of 30 well-established, blue-chip US companies, the DJIA is among the most renowned of the stock market indexes. However, the S&P 500 can be considered a more diversified indicator of the stock market.
• Nasdaq Composite: This index was created in 1971 and tracks all domestic and non-US-based common stocks listed on the National Association of Securities Dealers Automatic Quotation System (Nasdaq) market. The index is composed of more than 4,800 stocks that are traded via this system. Traditionally, the Nasdaq composite has been considered representative of technology stocks; however, today it is composed of an ever-broadening variety of issues.
• MSCI EAFE® Index: Morgan Stanley Capital International’s Europe, Australasia, Far East (EAFE) Index is the most prominent of the indexes that track international stock markets. It is a subset of MSCI’s All Country World Index of investable markets, which reflects the performance of more than 9,000 securities across all capitalization, sector and style segments in 45 developed and emerging markets.
• Russell 1000® Index: The Russell 1000 Index measures the performance of the largest publically traded companies in the US equity market. It is composed of the 1,000 largest firms as determined by Russell Investment’s annual ranking by market capitalization.
• Russell 2000® Index: The Russell 2000 Index measures the performance of the small-cap segment of the US equity market. It includes the 2,000 companies ranked below the Russell 1000 in Russell Investment’s annual market-capitalization ranking.
• FTSE 100 Index: This index is part of the FTSE UK Series and is designed to measure the performance of the 100 largest companies traded on the London Stock Exchange that pass screening for size and liquidity.
• Nikkei 225 Index: This index is composed of the 225 largest stocks on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.
• Barclays Capital U.S. Aggregate Bond Index: Covering the principal investment-grade sectors of the US bond market (such as corporate, government and mortgage-backed), this benchmark is among the most broadly diversified indexes of bond market total returns.
• 10-Year U.S. Treasury Bond: The yield on this long-term US government bond is often looked to as the foundation bond yield for analyzing the performance potential of other long-term bond investments. The yield is not an index but a statistic derived from the reported prices for bond trades.
• iMoneyNet Money Fund Averages™: These benchmarks track the averages of taxable and tax-free money market fund yields on a 7- and 30-day basis. They are not indexes but averages of reported yields as calculated by the publisher (iMoneyNet).
Investment indexes are complex devices that can be invaluable tools when used properly, or hazardous when used inappropriately. And while you cannot invest directly in any index, you can find investments that mirror the performance of a specified index. Many investors find these investments ideal for certain purposes. I can help you get a better understanding of indexes and also find suitable index-based investments as appropriate to your particular needs. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.

If you’d like to learn more, please contact Angel Chavez, CIMA®, 415-984-6008.

Article by McGraw Hill and provided courtesy of Morgan Stanley Financial Advisor. Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC (“S&P”), which maintains the S&P500 index, is a subsidiary of The McGraw-Hill Companies.

The author(s) are not employees of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC (“Morgan Stanley”). The opinions expressed by the authors are solely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of Morgan Stanley. The information and data in the article or publication has been obtained from sources outside of Morgan Stanley and Morgan Stanley makes no representations or guarantees as to the accuracy or completeness of information or data from sources outside of Morgan Stanley. Neither the information provided nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation by Morgan Stanley with respect to the purchase or sale of any security, investment, strategy or product that may be mentioned.

Morgan Stanley Financial Advisor(s) engaged Silicon Valley Latino to feature this article.

Angel Chavez, CIMA® may only transact business in states where he is registered or excluded or exempted from registration www.morganstanleyfa.com/elcaminogroup/ Transacting business, follow-up and individualized responses involving either effecting or attempting to effect transactions in securities, or the rendering of personalized investment advice for compensation, will not be made to persons in states where Angel Chavez, CIMA® is not registered or excluded or exempt from registration.

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Finding Yield in a Low-Rate Environment With Dividend-Paying Stocks

Where do you go to find yield in today’s low-rate environment? Think dividends. A growing number of companies pay dividends and offer attractive yields.

 

For today’s income-oriented investor, it’s been a frustrating time. Yields on US Treasury bonds, as well as investment-grade municipal and corporate bonds have hovered near historical lows. Even longer-term issues remain in the doldrums; rates on 30-year Treasuries have not topped 4% since October 20081

 

But for investors seeking income, there is an alternative: dividend-paying stocks. There are now 395 companies in the S&P 500 that pay dividends, and the average yield on these stocks has been rising since 2000. As of December 31, 2011, the average yield of a dividend-paying stock in the S&P 500 was 2.4%, compared with 1.9% for 10-year US Treasuries.1

 

But there’s more to dividend-paying stocks than yield. The long-term benefits of dividends are significant:

 

•           Dividends are a key driver of total return. There are several factors that may contribute to the superior total return of dividend-paying stocks over the long term. One of them is dividend reinvestment. The longer the period in which dividends are reinvested, the greater the spread between price return and dividend reinvested total return.

 

•           Dividends help boost returns in down markets. Since 1926, dividends have accounted for over a third of the returns of the S&P 500. In down years, when price return is negative, dividends help offset the drop. Since 1926, dividends have provided an average return of 4.5% in all 12-month periods where the index declined, which helped offset the average price decline of 18.6%.1

 

•           Dividend-paying stocks offer potentially stronger returns and lower volatility.  Dividend-paying stocks have outperformed the broader market over time. Stocks with a history of increasing their dividend each year have produced higher returns with lower risk than non-dividend-paying stocks. For instance, since 1990, the S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats–those stocks within the S&P 500 that have increased their dividends each year for the past 25 years–produced annualized returns of 11.04% versus 8.23% for the S&P 500 overall, with less volatility, as measured by standard deviation (14.14% versus 15.22%, respectively).2

 

 

•           Dividends benefit from continued favorable tax treatment. The extension of the Bush-era tax cuts helps to reinforce the current case for dividend stocks. The tax bill passed in late 2010 extended the 15% tax on qualifying dividends and other forms of investment income through December 31, 2012. Because there are restrictions on the types of dividend income subject to the lower 15% rate, investors should consult a tax advisor to determine how tax laws apply to their situation.

 

•           Dividends are a sign of corporate financial health. Dividend payouts are often indicative of a company’s financial health and management’s confidence in future cash flow. They are usually paid by mature businesses, and communicate a positive message to investors who perceive a long-term dividend as a sign of corporate strength.

 

The Growth of Dividend-Paying Stocks, 1950-2011

Dividend-paying stocks historically have demonstrated a performance edge. As this chart shows, an investor who invested a $1,000 portfolio consisting of the dividend-paying stocks within the S&P 500 in 1950 and reinvested all the dividends would have amassed in excess of $500,000 more than an investor with a portfolio of non-dividend-paying stocks within the index.

 

Source: Standard & Poor’s. Stocks are represented by the S&P 500, an unmanaged index considered representative of the broad US stock market. For the period January 1, 1950, through December 31, 2011. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Investors cannot invest directly in any index.

 

Keep in mind that like any stock, dividend-paying stocks can lose money, and there is no guarantee that dividends will be paid in the future. But for investors seeking current income or an income-producing alternative to diversify a portfolio, dividend-paying stocks can be an attractive choice. Morgan Stanley can help you find dividend-paying stocks that suit your portfolio.

 

Equity Securities’ prices may fluctuate in response to specific situations for each company, industry, market conditions, and general economic environment.

 

Morgan Stanley, its affiliates and Morgan Stanley Financial Advisors do not provide tax advice.  Individuals are urged to consult their tax advisor regarding their own tax or financial situation before implementing any strategies.

 

 

1Sources: Standard & Poor’s; The Federal Reserve, Selected Interest Rates (Daily) – Report H.15.

2Source: Standard & Poor’s. The S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats index measures the performance of all stocks within the S&P 500 that have increased their dividends each year for the past 25 years. Stocks are represented by the S&P 500, an unmanaged index considered representative of the broad US stock market. For the period January 1, 1950, through December 31, 2011. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Investors cannot invest directly in any index.

 

 

Notices & Prohibitions:

The Morgan Stanley Legal and Compliance Department has approved this article for use exactly as it appears. It may not be changed in any way. However, longer articles may be run in two or more parts as long as any disclaimers also appear in the respective parts. Please note that the non-solicitation clause must appear at the end of every article.

 

Finding Yield in a Low-Rate Environment With Dividend-Paying Stocks

Courtesy of: El Camino Group at Morgan Stanley, Angel Chavez, CIMA®, Financial Advisor

Branch Name: Morgan Stanley San Francisco, CA

Phone Number: 415-984-6008

Web Address: www.morganstanleyfa.com/elcaminogroup/

 

 

 

If you’d like to learn more, please contact Angel Chavez, CIMA®, 415-984-6008.

 

Article by McGraw Hill and provided courtesy of Morgan Stanley Financial Advisor.

 

The author(s) are not employees of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC (“MSSB”). The opinions expressed by the authors are solely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of MSSB.  The information and data in the article or publication has been obtained from sources outside of MSSB and MSSB makes no representations or guarantees as to the accuracy or completeness of information or data from sources outside of MSSB. Neither the information provided nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation by MSSB with respect to the purchase or sale of any security, investment, strategy or product that may be mentioned.

 

Morgan Stanley Financial Advisor(s) engaged to feature this article.

 

Angel V. Chavez may only transact business in states where he is registered or excluded or exempted from registration www.morganstanleyfa.com/elcaminogroup/. Transacting business, follow-up and individualized responses involving either effecting or attempting to effect transactions in securities, or the rendering of personalized investment advice for compensation, will not be made to persons in states where [Name] is not registered or excluded or exempt from registration.

 

Investments and services offered through Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC, member SIPC.

 

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