The S&P 500 And DJIA: Divergent Paths To Similar Results

The Indices Have Provided Different Sector Exposures, Which Can Result in Meaningful Return Discrepancies in the Medium Term

Over the three -ear period ending April 30, 2021, the S&P 500 outperformed the DJIA by 4.11% annualized. Exhibit 3 shows the results of a three-year Brinson performance attribution to explain the outperformance. In total, Industrials accounted for 2.00% / 4.11% = 49% of the difference. On average over the past three years, the S&P 500 was underweight Industrials by 10.01% during a time when Industrials underperformed the broad market. We can further decompose the Industrials’ 2.00% return contribution into an allocation effect of 1.14% and selection effect of 0.86%.

When first reviewing the S&P 500 and DJIA, market participants may note their similar long-term risk/return profile and high correlation. However, when we look closer, we can analyze a range of important differences including the number of constituents, top 10 holdings, weighting scheme, and sector exposures. Once investors understand these differences, they can make more informed decisions about using these iconic indices as benchmarks or the basis for passive investment.

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