In This List

Regional Relevancy of S&P 500® and Dow Jones Industrial Average® Futures in Asia

FAQ: The S&P Riskcasting Index Series

Index Construction Matters: The S&P SmallCap 600®

TalkingPoints: ESG Goes Mainstream in Australia – Get to Know the S&P/ASX 200 ESG Index

Sector Primer Series: Utilities

Regional Relevancy of S&P 500® and Dow Jones Industrial Average® Futures in Asia

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Tianyin Cheng

Senior Director, Strategy Indices

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Izzy Wang

Analyst, Strategy Indices

Global markets are increasingly integrated, driven by the diversified global supply chain, deregulation of capital markets, and technological advances.  The interconnection of global markets has been the key driver for co-movement of market returns, especially during periods of crisis.  This has important consequences in terms of portfolio hedging and risk management.

Meanwhile, with the continued growth in exchange-traded derivatives supported by the need for increased price transparency and liquidity, investors have sought to efficiently integrate listed derivatives into their portfolios.

This paper presents the regional relevancy of S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) futures for hedging and risk management use by Asian investors. While the ecosystem around the S&P 500 and DJIA covers multiple areas, including trading of options, ETFs, mutual funds, etc., we are only capturing part of the complexity of Asian trading by limiting the study scope to futures. We evaluate the usefulness of those instruments through the following metrics.

  • Liquidity: As shown by aggregate U.S. dollar total value traded for the futures contracts on the two U.S. benchmarks during Asian trading hours.
  • Co-movements of markets: As measured by correlations between the two U.S. benchmarks and seven major Asian market benchmarks, based on daily returns of the futures prices at Asian end of day.
  • Flexibility: As indicated by contract size and trading hours of the futures on the two U.S. benchmarks versus other major Asian market benchmarks.

The results suggested certain benefits of trading U.S. benchmarks in Asia, providing a new perspective on the use of index derivatives to meet the needs of Asian investors.

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FAQ: The S&P Riskcasting Index Series

  1. What are the S&P Riskcasting Indices?  The S&P Riskcasting Index Series is comprised of indices that allocate between equity and fixed income indices based on a Riskcasting signal generated by S&P DJI’s partner firm, Bramham Gardens.  The objective of the index series is to allocate a higher weight to the equities under potentially favorable market conditions and conversely a higher weight to fixed income under potentially less favorable market conditions.

    As of the launch date, the S&P Riskcasting Index Series includes the following indices that change allocation to the relevant S&P equity index and the S&P 10-Year U.S. Treasury Note Futures Index.

  1. Who is Bramham Gardens?  Bramham Gardens is a Paris-based firm that specializes in artificial-intelligence-driven investment strategies that screen, anticipate, and signal market risk increases with the goal of delivering a smoother return stream while investing in equity assets.  The team is comprised of several PhDs in Financial Economics and Machine Learning.

    For more information about Bramham Gardens, please refer to the website: http://www.bramham-gardens.com/.

  2. What is the Riskcasting signal? Using information from equity options based on the S&P 500, the goal of the Riskcasting signal is to determine when to allocate to equities and when to allocate to fixed income.

    Data for the Riskcasting signal is first obtained from an S&P 500 option-derived volatility surface that measures the spectrum of investor risk aversion levels toward the equity market and the evolution of their attitudes.  All volatility surfaces are normalized and transformed using techniques to combine statistics and signal processing.  The outcome is then used to generate the Riskcasting signal.  To be more precise, this signal aggregates the answers to the following three questions, asked by means of machine learning.

    • How likely is the S&P 500 to rise more than 1% tomorrow?
    • How likely is the S&P 500 to fall more than 1% tomorrow?
    • How likely is the S&P 500 to exhibit high volatility tomorrow?

    Based on the consistency of the three answers, the Riskcasting signal is generated, recommending either a positive, neutral, or negative state.  This determined state is then used for the allocation in the S&P Riskcasting Index Series.

    It is important to note that the process of updating and learning takes place on a daily basis, relying on a rolling window of five years.

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Index Construction Matters: The S&P SmallCap 600®

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Hamish Preston

Associate Director, U.S. Equity Indices

Launched in 1994, the S&P 600 is designed to track the performance of small-cap U.S. equities and has outperformed the Russell 2000 by an average of 1.6% per year over the past 25 years. This outperformance highlights the importance of index construction; unlike the Russell 2000, the S&P 600 uses an earnings screen—companies must have a track record of positive earnings before they are eligible to be added to the index. The resulting quality factor exposure has played a significant role in explaining the S&P 600’s relative returns, and why it has been a harder benchmark for active managers to beat.

RELATIVE RETURNS COMPARISON: S&P 600 VERSUS RUSSELL 2000

Exhibit 1 shows the cumulative total returns for the S&P 600 and the Russell 2000 since Dec. 31, 1994. The S&P 600 posted higher annualized returns and lower volatility than the Russell 2000 over the entire period, and it outperformed the Russell 2000 in 17 of the past 25 full calendar year periods.

Exhibit 1

Exhibit 2 shows that the S&P 600 also typically outperformed the Russell 2000 over other horizons. Indeed, the S&P 600 outperformed over most rolling three-month, six-month, one-year, three-year, and five-year periods, with both the frequency and magnitude of outperformance increasing over longer time horizons.

Exhibit 2

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TalkingPoints: ESG Goes Mainstream in Australia – Get to Know the S&P/ASX 200 ESG Index

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Daniel Perrone

Director and Head of Operations, ESG Indices

With growing interest in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing around the world, S&P DJI has launched the S&P/ASX 200 ESG Index in order to provide a transparent measure of the Australian equities market with a sustainability lens.

1. Why is the S&P/ASX 200 ESG Index significant to the Australian market

The S&P/ASX Index Series has played a significant role in characterizing the performance of the Australian equity market since its inception in April 2000. Since then, the S&P/ASX 200 has served as the foundation for benchmarks and index-based investing strategies in Australia. The S&P ASX/200 ESG Index combines the broad-market coverage of the S&P/ASX 200 with improved ESG characteristics. By targeting 75% of each GICS® industry group’s float-adjusted market capitalization in the S&P/ASX 200, the S&P/ASX 200 ESG Index offers similar industry group weights to that of its benchmark, thereby resulting in a risk/return profile that closely tracks its underlying index.

The S&P/ASX 200 ESG Index is part of the S&P ESG Index Series, which is designed to help investors integrate ESG objectives without compromising their investment objectives. The indices enhance overall ESG performance, targeting companies that rank highly according to our S&P DJI ESG Scores. The index design allows this ESG performance boost to come at a low cost in terms of tracking error as well.

The index eligibility and constituent selection process are driven by the S&P DJI ESG Scores. These scores employ data gathered through SAM’s Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA), which SAM1 has developed and administered over the past 20 years. The CSA and resulting S&P DJI ESG Scores provide an unparalleled view into companies’ sustainability performance in Australia. The CSA raises corporate awareness on upcoming ESG issues, challenging Australian companies to think about emerging ESG risks and opportunities in their industries. As a result, the CSA helps identify companies that are ahead of the curve on these topics. The CSA also contributes toward more transparency and reporting on these issues to the benefit of the broader investment community.

2. How and why would market participants use this new index in their practice?

With the S&P/ASX 200 ESG Index, investors are now able to move ESG from the periphery of their portfolios into the core. By providing a similar risk/return profile to that of the S&P/ASX 200, it has become easier and more attractive to allocate more to ESG than ever before. In addition, the S&P/ASX 200 ESG Index methodology is simple and accessible to everyone, particularly to those considering making their first ESG investment. By offering improved ESG characteristics without needing to make too many exclusions, the tracking error of the S&P/ASX 200 ESG Index to the S&P/ASX 200 can be kept low. This profile makes the S&P/ASX 200 ESG Index appealing to institutions, retail investors, and the financial advisor community alike.

In addition, as with any of our benchmark solutions, this index has a range of potential applications, such as defining an investable universe, benchmarking investment performance, or supporting the construction of passive portfolios through investment vehicles like ETFs that are now available in the Australian market.

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Sector Primer Series: Utilities

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Sherifa Issifu

Analyst, Index Investment Strategy

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Hamish Preston

Associate Director, U.S. Equity Indices

The Global Industry Classification Standard® (GICS®) assigns a company to a single business classification according to its principal business activity.  This assignment uses quantitative and qualitative factors, including revenues, earnings, and market perception.  The sector is the first level of the four-tiered, hierarchical industry classification system that includes 11 sectors, 24 industry groups, 69 industries, and 158 sub-industries.

Within the GICS framework, as outlined in Exhibit 1, Utilities companies include those that are primarily engaged in:

  • Supplying electric, gas and water utilities;
  • Operating as Independent Power Producers, Gas & Power Marketing & Trading Specialists, or Integrated Energy Merchants energy traders; and 
  • Generating and distributing electricity using renewable sources.

COMPOSITION

The S&P 500® Utilities comprises all companies in the S&P 500 that are assigned to the Utilities sector by GICS. Created in 1957, the S&P 500 was the first broad U.S. market-cap-weighted stock market index. Today, it is the basis of many listed and over-the-counter investment instruments.

The Utilities sector is the fourth smallest by capitalization of the 11 sectors in the S&P 500, representing 3.07% of the index as of June 30, 2020 (see Exhibit 2). This compares to 4.17% and 2.23% for the S&P MidCap 400® and S&P SmallCap 600®, respectively. Overall, the Utilities sector accounts for 2.95% of (and 71 securities within) the S&P Total Market Index; only the Energy and Materials sectors (2.63% and 2.69%, respectively) account for less, by index weight.

With a total float-adjusted market capitalization of USD 786.16 billion, the S&P 500 Utilities sector comprised 28 companies as of June 30, 2020. The two largest companies in the sector were NextEra Energy Inc (NEE) and Dominion Energy Inc (D), with float-adjusted market caps of USD 117.55 billion and USD 68.13 billion, respectively. There were no Utilities companies in the top 10 of the S&P 500—NextEra Energy Inc ranked as the 46th largest stock, representing 0.46% of the index. The mean market cap of S&P 500 Utilities stocks was USD 28.08 billion, the median market cap was USD 20.86 billion, and the lowest market cap was USD 7.95 billion.

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