This article explains what makes the S&P 500 Index stand out among other indices. Before we elaborate on the S&P 500, however, a short definition of an index is in order. 

An index is a method to evaluate the performance of a group of assets. As a rule, indices measure the performance of a group of securities meant to replicate a specific area of the market. These can be so-called broad-based indices tracking the whole market. Indices can also be more specialized, evaluating a specific industry or a segment.  

What Is the S&P 500 Index?

The index under discussion is called the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, or the S&P 500 for short. It is an index of the 500 largest US companies which are traded publicly. The index is market-capitalization weighted; that is, it is a type of index where its individual components are included in amounts corresponding to their total market capitalization, shortened as “market cap”. 

What Companies Are Eligible for S&P 500 Inclusion?

Note that the S&P 500 is not a list of exactly 500 US companies by market capitalization, since there are other criteria by which companies get included in the index. To be eligible for S&P 500 index inclusion, a company should satisfy the following criteria:

  • Be a US company;
  • Have a market capitalization of at least USD 11.8 billion;
  • Be highly liquid;
  • Have a public float of at least 10% of its shares outstanding;
  • Its most recent quarter’s earnings and the sum of its trailing four consecutive quarters’ earnings must be positive. 

What Companies Are Listed on the S&P 500?

The S&P 500 Index is viewed as the best gauge of large-cap US equities. The Index does not provide the full list of 500 companies, many of which include technology companies and financial businesses. The top ten S&P 500 companies by Index weighting are the following:

  1. Apple (AAPL), index weighting is 5.9%.
  2. Microsoft (MSFT), index weighting is 5.4%.
  3. Amazon.com, index weighting is 4.2%.
  4. Facebook, (aka Meta Platforms) (FB), index weighting is 2.2%.
  5. Alphabet (GOOGL), index weighting is 2.0%.
  6. Alphabet (GOOG), index weighting is 2.0%.
  7. Tesla (TSLA), index weighting is 1.5%.
  8. Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B), index weighting is 1.5%.
  9. JPMorgan (JPM0, index weighting is 1.3%.
  10. Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), index weighting is 1.2%. 

While many of these above-mentioned companies may be household names, broad popular familiarity is not a requirement. That means that the index also includes lesser-known companies, so long as they meet the criteria for index inclusion.

What Is Inside the S&P 500 Index?

There are eleven sectors included in the S&P 500 Index, according to the Global Industry Classification Standard: 

  • Energy
  • Materials
  • Industrials
  • Consumer Discretionary
  • Consumer Staples
  • Health Care
  • Financials
  • Information Technology
  • Communication Services
  • Real Estate
  • Utilities

These sectors are further divided into 24 industry groups, 69 industries, and 158 sub-industries. The S&P 500 represents more than 83% of the total domestic U.S. equity market capitalization. The S&P Composite 1500, which comprises the S&P 500, S&P MidCap 400, and S&P SmallCap 600, represents over 90% of the S&P TMI (Total Market Index).

History of the S&P 500

The origin of the S&P 500 goes back to 1923 when Standard & Poor’s introduced indices that included 233 companies spread over 26 industries. The S&P 500, as it is now known, was introduced in 1957. The S&P 500 is regarded as a proxy for the U.S. equity market. It is the only stock market benchmark serving as an economic indicator in The Conference Board Leading Economic Index. It has stood for U.S. stock market performance in that context since 1968.

S&P 500 Index Construction

In order to calculate the market capitalization of a company, one needs to multiply the current stock price by the outstanding shares; that is, those shares that are shown on a company’s balance sheet under the heading Capital Stock. Note that the S&P only uses free-floating shares or the shares that are traded by the public. The S&P 500 adjusts each company’s cap to compensate for the issues of new shares or companies’ mergers. The value of the index is calculated by totaling the adjusted market caps of each company and dividing the result by a divisor.  

Investors can calculate how much a particular company weighs in the index. This information is important: if a stock jumps or sinks, investors, by calculating its weight, can understand whether it might have an impact on the S&P 500 as a whole. A company with a 15% weighting will affect the value of the S&P 500 more than a company with a 1% weighting. 

S&P 500 Most Recent Rebalancing

The S&P 500 was rebalanced last time on March 12, 2021. The rebalancing was brought into effect on March 22, 2021, before markets opened. NXP Semiconductors (NXPI), Penn National Gaming (PENN), Generac Holdings (GNRC), Caesars Entertainment (CZR) were included on the list of S&P 500 companies. Xerox Holdings (XRX), Flowserve (FLS), SL Green Realty (SLG), and Voter (VNT) were crossed out of the list. 

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When you enter the financial world, you encounter such concepts as money, currency, and fiat money. And you might wonder while hearing these words whether they differ. Are money, currency, and fiat money interchangeable synonyms or are there conceptual differences between these notions? In what follows, we are shedding some light on these concepts, dwelling longer on the concept of fiat money. 

How Do Money and Currency Differ?

The two concepts of money and currency seem interchangeable, but they are fundamentally different. These are several points at which these two concepts diverge:

  • Money is not tangible. They cannot be touched or smelled. Money is seen only as numbers. Currency is, by contrast, tangible. It is the promissory note or coin that can be touched, smelled, cast up or down, or kept in your wallet. 
  • Money takes the form of numbers. Currency is shaped like coins, banknotes, or hard plastic. 
  • Money can be transferred online, whereas currency must be transferred physically. You hand currencies out to another person. 

What Is Fiat Money?

The concept of fiat money is not difficult to understand. The etymology of the word fiat might be helpful. This word comes from the Latin word facio – facere meaning “to do” and in Latin means “let it be done.” It, therefore, presupposes some authority behind it. When we hear the words fiat money, we hear the authoritative voice giving it permission to exist. And indeed, fiat money is currency backed by the government that issued it. Imagine the government minting fiat money and confirming its existence by its authority and you will understand the concept of fiat money.

How Does Fiat Money Differ from Commodity Money?

Another type of money – commodity money – is backed by precious commodities – gold or silver. The value of fiat money is not derived from the value of gold or silver but from the relationship between supply and demand. Its value also depends on the stability of the government that issued it rather than on the stability and worth of commodities backing it, as is the case with commodity money. Note that the majority of our paper money, be it the US dollar, the euro, or the British pound, are fiat currencies. 

It is worth emphasizing that fiat money has value only because the government decides to maintain its value. Two parties in a transaction can agree on its value, too. Fiat money is inconvertible and cannot be redeemed. Because fiat money is not backed by physical reserves, such as gold or silver, it can lose value due to inflation or hyperinflation. If people stop believing in their country’s currency, it will stop having any value. Herein lies the major difference between fiat money and commodity money. Currency backed by gold or silver does have intrinsic value, absent in fiat money, because of the demand for gold in jewelry, decoration, electronic devices, or aerospace vehicles. 

The credit theory of money maintains that money should not be backed by commodities or any other valuables. This theory views all money as a credit-debit relation, which in itself is binding. Therefore, to be valuable, money does not need to be backed by anything at all. 

Is the US Dollar Fiat Money?

Like the majority of the major currencies, the US dollar is fiat currency. But this was not always the case. Earlier in US history, the greenback was backed by gold and sometimes silver. In 1933, however, the federal government signed the Emergency Banking Act that disallowed citizens to exchange currency for government gold. The gold standard, which backed US currency with federal gold, ended completely in 1971. That year, the government also stopped issuing gold to foreign governments in exchange for US currency. 

Since 1971, the US dollars have been backed by the “full faith and credit” of the US government, “legal tender for all debts, public and private” but not “redeemable in lawful money at the United States Treasury or at any Federal Reserve Bank,” according to the words formerly written on the American banknotes. These days, US dollars are “legal tender,” rather than “lawful money,” exchanged for gold or silver.  

Advantages of Fiat Money

At fxinvestglobal, you will be able to understand that fiat money plays the role of a country’s money by storing value, providing a numerical account, and facilitating exchange but it shouldn’t be like that, boring, you can make some money from it. Fiat currencies became particularly popular in the twentieth century because governments and central banks wanted to protect their economies from the worst effects of the natural blossoming and crush of the business cycles. Because fiat money is not as rare as gold, central banks have more control over its supply. Having this control over money gives them the power to manage economic variables – interest rates, liquidity, credit supply, and money velocity. Fiat money gives governments the flexibility to manage their currency, set monetary policy, and even stabilize global markets. Commercial banks can also increase the amount of money in circulation when they need to meet particular demands from borrowers. 

What Are the Alternatives to Fiat Money?

Gold and silver coins were used to participate in monetary exchanges. These days, you can definitely buy or sell gold or gold coins but you cannot use them in exchange for everyday purchases. Gold and gold coins have turned into speculative assets. 

Many people view Bitcoin and other altcoins as a new alternative to fiat money since they challenge their inflationary nature. And yet, even though the popularity of digital coins has been growing, they have not become money in our traditional understanding of the concept. 

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