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Understanding Stock Market Indexes

A stock market index is a statistical measure of changes in the securities markets. An index represents a portfolio of securities traded on the market that is considered to be reasonably representative of the market as a whole. Each index has its own method of calculation. It is generally expressed as a change from its base value. For a better understanding of the stock market, an index should be read not at its absolute numerical value but at the percentage change in its numerical value. One cannot invest in an index directly. However, you can invest in index related mutual funds.

Popular indexes in the US

The Standard & Poor's 500 Index ? The S & P 500 index

This index is the most popular index in the world. The S & P 500 index consists of 500 stocks chosen on the basis of industry, market capitalization, liquidity and other factors. It is a leading indicator of US stocks. The index does not include speculative stocks.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) ? popularly known as the Dow

This index consists of 30 significant stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the NASDAQ. It includes companies such as Microsoft, Exxon Mobil, Disney, and General Electrical. The index does not include speculative stocks.

The Dow Jones Utility Average (DJUA)

The DJUA is more of a sector based index as it is a price-weighted average of 15 utility stocks traded in the US. It is sensitive to interest rate changes as utility companies tend to borrow a great deal of money.

The Russell 2000 Index

This index consists of 2,000 small company stocks that are included in the Russell 3000 index. It serves as a bench mark for small company stocks in the US.

Wilshire 5000 Total Market Index (TMWX)

This index measures the stock performance of all US headquartered equities for which price data is readily available. It is one of the broadest stock market indices. It includes equities of more than 7,000 companies traded on US Stock Exchanges.

The Nasdaq Composite Index

It tracks companies traded on the Nasdaq Stock Exchanges. The index consists of stocks of more than 5,000 companies traded on Nasdaq. Most of these companies are technology companies. However, you will find companies in the financial, industrial, transportation and insurance sectors. It also consists of many speculative companies.

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