Sector Primer Series: Materials

Potential Advantages of a Lower Allocation to Energy: The S&P GSCI Light Energy

InsuranceTalks: Why Insurers Are Increasingly Considering Infrastructure Investments as Core

FA Talks: A Practitioner’s Guide to Accessing Next Gen Sectors with AI

TalkingPoints: Exploring Fixed Income in Africa

Sector Primer Series: Materials

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Hamish Preston

Director, U.S. Equity Indices

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Sherifa Issifu

Senior Analyst, 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, Materials companies include those that are primarily engaged in:

  • Producing and manufacturing chemical products, including industrial chemical products;
  • Manufacturing construction materials, containers, and packaging;
  • Mining metals and the production of related products; and
  • Manufacturing paper and forest products.


The S&P 500® Materials comprises all companies in the S&P 500 that are assigned to the Materials 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 Materials sector is the smallest by capitalization of the 11 sectors in the S&P 500, representing 2.53% of the index as of May 29, 2020. This compares to 6.04% and 4.95% for the S&P MidCap 400® and S&P SmallCap 600®, respectively. Overall, the Materials sector accounts for 2.72% of (and 146 securities within) the S&P Total Market Index; only the Energy sector (2.70%) accounts for less, by index weight.

With a total float-adjusted market capitalization of USD 641.43 billion, the S&P 500 Materials sector comprised 28 companies as of May 29, 2020. The two largest companies in the sector were Linde plc (LIN) and Ecolab Inc (ECL), with float-adjusted market caps of USD 108.69 billion and USD 53.31 billion, respectively. There were no Materials companies in the top 10 of the S&P 500—Linde plc ranked as the 53rd largest stock, representing 0.43% of the index. The mean market cap of S&P 500 Materials stocks was USD 22.91 billion, the median market cap was USD 13.79 billion, and the lowest market cap was USD 4.23 billion.

The largest five constituents accounted for 48.64% of the weight of the Materials sector, placing it seventh in the S&P 500 in terms of concentration.

Within the S&P 500 Materials, Chemicals was by far the largest industry, accounting for 71.24% of the sector as of May 29, 2020. The remaining sector weight was distributed across the Containers and Packaging (13.13%), Metals and Mining (11.52%), and Construction Materials (4.11%) industries. There were no companies in the Paper and Forest Products industry as of May 29, 2020. The three largest sub-industries were Specialty Chemicals (30.70%), Industrial Gases (25.25%), and Paper Packaging (9.50%)—the first two belong to the Chemicals industry.

A key feature of GICS is that it can evolve: its structure is intended to reflect the current state of the equity investment universe. S&P Dow Jones Indices and MSCI conduct annual reviews to ensure that the structure remains fully representative of the current global market. Although there have been few significant changes to the Materials sector—Chemicals has always been the largest industry, for example—the Paper & Forest Products industry weight in the S&P 500 declined since 1999, from 20% to 0%.

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Potential Advantages of a Lower Allocation to Energy: The S&P GSCI Light Energy

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Fiona Boal

Head of Commodities and Real Assets

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Jim Wiederhold

Director, Commodities and Real Assets

S&P Dow Jones Indices (S&P DJI) offers a number of strategies that track various commodities markets.  The most widely recognized of these is the S&P GSCI, which is designed to measure the performance of a broadbased, production-weighted, investable representation of the global commodities market. Energy-related futures make up more than half of the index composition.

For a less-energy-intensive commodity market measure, there is the S&P GSCI Light Energy. It tracks the same designated contracts as the headline S&P GSCI, but it divides its contract production weights in the energy sector by four, increasing the relative weights of other S&P GSCI commodity components. Therefore, the index offers a commodity exposure that is more evenly weighted across the five major commodity sectors: energy, industrial metals, precious metals, agriculture, and livestock.

Exhibit 1 compares the methodologies of the S&P GSCI Light Energy and the Bloomberg Commodity Index (BCOM). These two indices are representations of a more equal-weighted view of commodities markets. Their performance is similar, and due to lower energy weights, each index has shown much less volatility than the headline S&P GSCI.

Potential Advantages of a Lower Allocation to Energy: The S&P GSCI Light Energy Exhibit 1

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InsuranceTalks: Why Insurers Are Increasingly Considering Infrastructure Investments as Core

Insurance Talks is an interview series where insurance industry thinkers share their thoughts and perspectives on a variety of market trends and themes impacting indexing.

Robert Amodeo is Head of Municipals at Western Asset Management Company, LLC and has more than 30 years of investment experience. Since 2005, Robert has been part of Western Asset’s municipal bond investment team and is the sector head of that group.

S&P DJI: Tell us a bit about your role at Western Asset Management Company and how you serve the insurance space?

Robert: At Western Asset, I lead a team of investment professionals including portfolio managers, research analysts, and quantitative analysts with an average of 27 years of experience in the muni market. Our investment philosophy at the firm is centered around a long-term, fundamental value approach and this is woven into the portfolios we manage for insurance clients. Our firm manages over USD 85 billion of insurance company mandates for U.S. and international companies across business lines, including life, health, property/casualty, and reinsurance. Our muni portfolios reflect the unique objectives and constraints ranging from full discretion, total return focused clients to book yield focused clients that are constrained by capital, regulatory, and accounting considerations.

S&P DJI: Fixed income comprises a significant portion of insurers’ portfolios.What trends have you seen in terms of asset allocation within this sector in recent years?

Robert: Two trends we have been seeing in munis is the search for yield and the growing allocation in taxable bonds. Book yields have declined since the global financial crisis and many of our clients partner with us to generate yield for their general account assets via yield curve management, sector allocation, and security selection. We look to add value to their portfolios by capitalizing on opportunities in undervalued securities, out of favor industries, trading inefficiencies, and rising stars.Since December 2011, the aggregate market value and number of issues in the S&P Taxable Municipal Bond Index have grown 39% and 42%, respectively. A combination of factors including tax reform, relative value, and good capital treatment have also spurred interest from U.S. and international insurance companies in taxable munis.

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FA Talks: A Practitioner’s Guide to Accessing Next Gen Sectors with AI

FA Talks is an interview series where industry thinkers share their thoughts and perspectives on a variety of market trends and themes impacting indexing.

How are financial advisors with an eye on the future using future-based tools to meet client goals today? 21st century sectors represent the foundation of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The S&P Kensho New Economy Indices are designed to track emerging technologies that are reshaping traditional industries and driving this seismic shift. Lisa and Mark Bova of Lenity Financial see Financial Services as one of the industries at the forefront of these changes.

S&P DJI: How do you manage portfolios today at Lenity Financial?

Lisa: We utilize goals-based investing and use a tactical approach. One of the first questions we ask is about a client’s past experience with money, which includes long-term insights—meaning what they did or didn’t learn from their family. Based on their history, comfort level with risk, and their near-term needs and long-term goals, we work with our clients to determine their “risk budget,” which essentially defines how hard or not their money needs to work for them in order for them to reach their goals. Overall, we manage tactically. We can be overweight, underweight, or neutral on an asset class, segment of the market, or even risk. It all depends on the goals and risk budget of the individual client.

S&P DJI: Why was it important to you to find a passive solution using Artificial Intelligence to help meet clients’ needs?

Mark: In today’s markets, there is so much data and the market moves so quickly that we needed a way to effectively and efficiently process the constant stream of information. We were looking for a way to employ AI in our process and we found the S&P Kensho New Economy Indices. Kensho has a meaning—it is an initial insight or awakening. In what is believed by many to be the beginning of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, having the S&P Kensho New Economies in our toolkit made sense. We’re futurists and we see financial professionals working with machines as the way forward. Data is a critical component to AI. There has been so much data collected in the past several years, and S&P DJI has been one of the most pervasive providers of data for decades. Think of it, Henry Varnum Poor published An Investor’s Guide to the U.S. Railroad Industry in 1860. So, the ability to access the powerful combination of data and cutting-edge AI through the S&P Kensho New Economy Indices was a perfect fit for us.

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TalkingPoints: Exploring Fixed Income in Africa

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Zack Bezuidenhoudt

Director, Client Coverage Israel, Benelux, Nordics, and U.K.

S&P Dow Jones Indices (S&P DJI) made a commitment in 2014 to expand its fixed income coverage to Africa. The index development process started with a series of sovereign bond indices designed to represent and measure performance within the region. The S&P Africa Sovereign Bond Index seeks to track the performance of local currency-denominated sovereign bonds from 13 countries within Africa. The index series also includes a benchmark of  hard currency bonds issued in U.S. dollars, euros, and Japanese  yen, as represented by the S&P Africa Hard Currency Sovereign  Bond Index.

As a subindex of the S&P Africa Sovereign Bond Index, the S&P South Africa Sovereign Bond Index is designed to track the performance of ZAR-denominated sovereign debt publicly issued by the South African government.

S&P DJI also developed the S&P South Africa Sovereign Inflation-Linked Bond Index, which is a subindex of the S&P Global Emerging Sovereign Inflation-Linked Bond Index.

    What details are available for these indices?

S&P DJI builds indices with transparency in mind. These indices aim to make opaque fixed income information more transparent by providing bond-level information in addition to the index-level performance measurements. Our reports are informative, insightful, and organized in order to provide efficiency, in addition to being a tool for investment performance measurement.

The S&P South Africa Sovereign Bond Index

The S&P South Africa Sovereign Bond Index seeks to track the performance of South African rand-denominated sovereign debt publicly issued by the government of South Africa in its domestic market.

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