Posts filed under “Investing”
I want to address the addition of Apple to the Dow Jones Industrial Average, so we have to get a few things out of the way up front.
The venerable Dow isn’t really all that important. It began life on May 26, 1896, but in the last 30 or so years, it has faded in significance. It remains deeply flawed in its methodology, driven rather arbitrarily by the price weightings of its constituents rather than their market values.
You can see how this affects the weighting of each component in the index. Companies with higher stock prices such as Visa and Goldman Sachs have a 9.7 percent and 6.7 percent weight, respectively, while lower-priced stocks such as Cisco Systems and General Electric are merely 1.05 percent 0.91 percent, respectively. Why Goldman Sachs, with an $84 billion capitalization, matters more to the Dow than General Electric, with a $257 billion capitalization, is rather mystifying. A high-priced, smaller company carrying more weight than a lower-priced, bigger company makes no sense.
Not only that, but it is an actively selected — though not actively traded — portfolio, managed by a group of editors. Originally these editors were employees of Dow Jones, the company, but since 2012 the index has been 73 percent owned by McGraw Hill Financial. The CME group, which had purchased the index from Dow Jones in 2010, owns 24.4 percent; Dow Jones retains the remaining 2.6 percent stake.
I can’t think of these strange bedfellows now in charge of selecting Dow components without being reminded that a camel is a horse that was designed by a committee.
What qualifies a company to be included in the Dow? According to theDJ Index fact sheet, a “stock typically is added only if the company has an excellent reputation, demonstrates sustained growth and is of interest to a large number of investors.” (The full history of additions and deletions can be seen here). But that description is so broad as to be almost useless. There are hundreds of companies with those qualifications.
Why Apple, and perhaps more importantly, why now?
Exactly six years ago today, the markets made their ultimate low following a 57% collapse of the S&P. I was fortunate to have been on the right side of that trade in both directions. What is most fascinating to me about that was the pushback from traders and investors — in each direction. It is revealing…Read More
> This morning in my Sunday Washington Post Business Section column, we look at the issue of how expensive U.S. stocks are. There are several ways to determine this, fraught with the potential for error. If you want to determine how cheap or expensive the stock market is, I suggest three commandments to consider: ●Thou shalt…Read More
The last refuge of scoundrels is their blind insistence that all data points must be adjusted for inflation. I was reminded of this earlier in the week when Nasdaq, after 15 long years, closed above the 5,000 mark. The immediate response from parts of the bearish contingency was to demand that the numbers take into…Read More
Much of the financial world is all abuzz over the 50th annual letter to shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway, released this past weekend.Financial journalists, amateur Buffett sleuths, Graham & Dodd aficionados and just about everyone I know spent some quality time this weekend with this letter. They are all trying to identify that one pearl of wisdom that…Read More
Salil Mehta is a statistician and risk strategist. He served for two years as Director of Analytics in the U.S. Department of the Treasury for the Administration’s $700 billion TARP program. He is the former Director of the Policy, Research, and Analysis Department in the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. Salil is on the Editorial Board for the…Read More
Today’s discussion is aimed at the individual investor, though certainly the professionals might take something from our philosophical musings this morning. The bull market that dates to March 2009 is now entering one of its more interesting — and perhaps dangerous — phases. Not hazardous, mind you, from a market perspective, but from a behavioral…Read More
I wanted to spend a bit of time on the Labor Department’s proposal to place a fiduciary obligation on those who manage or provide investment advice on retirement plans. These include individual retirement accounts and 401(k)s (including 403(b)s). The new rules require the broker or adviser to “operate in the best interest of the client.” I don’t…Read More