Why the Dow Jones hitting 20K is meaningless

The Dow Jones just recently hit a milestone price of $20,000. While we think this is good, we believe this is nothing to be excited about. Essentially, our lack of enthusiasm over this $20,000 mark comes from how the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) is calculated.

When the DJIA started in 1896, it was a true average. To find the index price you would simply add all of the stock prices for the companies in the collection and then divide by the number of companies.  Today it’s a little different in that the sum of all of the stock prices is now divided by a number less than 1. Essentially, the index will be larger than the sum of all of the included companies’ stock prices. This divisor fluctuates based on how many stocks are offered as well as when a company is added or removed from the index. Basically, this number will move a lot.

The other issue with the DJIA formula is that it is price weighted. The index rewards large price increase to stocks rather than looking at total market cap. For example, let’s say you have a company that sells 10 shares for $5 each and I have a company selling 100 shares for $0.50 each. Both companies are worth $50. Now let’s say both companies grow 20%. So your company is now selling 10 shares for $6, while my company is selling 100 shares for $0.60. Again, both companies are worth the same amount. However, the DJIA would increase more with your company due to the larger price increase.

Another reason to not get excited over the Dow Jones is that the index only includes 30 companies. This is a very small number in today’s market. Meaning that the Dow Jones would not be representative of what the market is doing as a whole. While there are great companies included in the index, we feel that a larger sample size of corporations would be more reflective of the market.

Overall, we’re not thrilled with the Dow Jones index. However, we understand that there is some emotional value to looking back and saying “wow, I remember when the Dow was at 18,000”. While the Dow Jones hitting 20,000 is definitely a milestone, we recommend using other market indicators like the S&P 500 to get a more accurate representation of how the overall market is performing.

To learn more about the Dow Jones Industrial Average, you can visit their site at http://www.djaverages.com/?go=industrial-overview

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