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Stock market indices - statistics & facts

Most countries all over the world have a stock exchange where both local and international companies are traded. A stock exchange facilitates the trading process, allowing the value of listed companies to be determined by the laws of supply and demand. The number of traded companies usually ranges between a couple of hundred in less developed financial markets to as many as a couple of thousand in the mature markets. It would be a very time-consuming task to examine the performance of the leading companies in a given country in order to assess the stock market sentiment - not to mention to track the market performance on various global stock exchanges. That is why the stock indices prove to be so useful.

What is a stock market index?

A stock market index measures the performance of a segment of the stock market. It is calculated based on the prices (and often market capitalization) of the companies (or other underlying assets) which belong to the index. A point in time is assigned a starting value (say, 0 or 100), with changes then being measured in reference to this starting value. This allows the index to easily show how a market has developed over time. One of the most important stock indexes in the world is the S&P 500, which measures the performance of 500 of the largest U.S. companies. With a starting value of 386.36 in 1957, by November 2021 this had risen to around 4,700. Similarly, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (which includes 30 prominent U.S. companies) grew from 40.94 in 1896 to 35,601.98 in November 2021.

What are the main stock indexes in the world?

There are literally thousands of stock market indexes in the world, covering everything from the world economy as a whole, to sub-sectors of national or local economies, to prices of other financial assets like precious metals. Aside from the big two aforementioned U.S. stock market indices, some of the most famous national indices are: the FTSE 100 (which includes the largest 100 U.K. companies); the Japanese Nikkei (comprised of 225 selected major Japanese companies); Hong Kong’s Hang Seng (covering the 50 largest companies on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange), and the German DAX (with the top 40 German companies on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange). All of these indexes are considered bellwethers for the corresponding national economy. Looking at broader indices, perhaps the two most important are the MSCI World, which includes 1,583 companies across 23 developed economies, and the and the EURO STOXX 50, containing 50 leading eurozone companies representing all major industries.

Interesting statistics

In the following 5 chapters, you will quickly find the 26 most important statistics relating to "Stock market indices".

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