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The S&P 500 Index, also known as the Standard & Poor’s 500 or the US500, is an American stock market index that tracks the performance of the top 500 companies listed on the Nasdaq Stock Market or the New York Stock Exchange. It is a free-floating index covering US firms with the largest market capitalisation and book value, representing approximately 80 per cent of the total value of the country’s equity market.
The S&P 500 is one of the most commonly followed equity indices and is often perceived as the best representation of the health of the US stock market and a bellwether for the overall US economy. Its weighting methodology and diverse constituency set it apart from other major American indices like the NASDAQ-100 or the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
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The index is maintained by S&P Dow Jones Indices. Constituent stocks are primarily chosen by capitalisation. However, other factors, such as liquidity, public float, sector classification, financial viability and trading history are also considered. The index is reviewed and rebalanced on a quarterly basis.
While there are 500 companies included in the list, the index is composed of 505 common stocks. This difference in numbers occurs as a few index’s component firms issue more than one class of stock. For example, Alphabet Class A shares (GOOGL) and Alphabet Class C shares (GOOG) are both included in the US500 Index.
The S&P 500 is weighted by market capitalisation. It means that the constituents with a higher market cap carry a higher weighting percentage in the index and, therefore, have more influence over its performance.
Some of the largest companies included in the S&P 500 Index today are Apple (AAPL), Microsoft (MSFT), Amazon (AMZN), Facebook (FB), Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B), Visa (V), JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Walmart (WMT), AT&T (T) and ExxonMobil (XOM).
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The US500 was introduced in 1957 with a starting index value of 386.36. According to the historical, inflation-adjusted S&P 500 chart, during the first decade, its value surged past 700 points amid the background of the economic boom that followed World War II. However, when the US economy suffered from stagnant growth and high inflation from 1969 to the first half of 1982, the index plummeted dramatically, eventually falling below 300 points.
The bulls took over from late 1982 to early 2000, with the S&P 500 trading in an uptrend and gaining nearly 1,350 per cent. On March 24, 2000, it reached an intraday high of 1,552.87. But once the infamous dot-com bubble burst, the index lost more than 40 per cent of its value.
On the back of the following growth in the commodity and financial sector stocks, as well as housing, the US500 started to recover, with its value reaching 1,530.23 points on May 30, 2007. On October 11, it posted another intraday high of 1,576.09, right after its record close of 1,565.15 two days earlier.
Many of these gains were soon reversed due to a sharp drop in housing prices, and the index ended 2007 at 1,468.36. During the Great Recession, the S&P 500 shed a total of 57.7 per cent from its October 2007 highs, bottoming out in March 2009 at 676.53. It fully recovered its crisis-related losses by March 28, 2013, after surpassing its previous closing high level of 1,565.15.
Over the following years, until February 2020, the US 500 Index quote had mainly been in an uptrend, with the exception of occasional, short-lived negative fluctuations. On February 19, 2020, it peaked at 3,386.15, right before the Covid-19 pandemic brought global economic growth to a halt.
The index suffered its worst daily decline since 1987's Black Monday on March 12, 2020, when it plunged 9.5 per cent. On March 23, its value fell to 2,208 points. However, amid unprecedented Federal Reserve aid and optimism for a prompt rebound, the S&P 500 skyrocketed to 3,233.3 on June 8, erasing its year-to-date losses.
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