In This List

Why Does the S&P 500® Matter to Brazil?

Getting Smarter About Saving For College: Introducing the S&P Target Tuition Inflation Index

Practice Essentials: Measuring Volatility in Australia

The S&P 500 Equal Weight Index: A Supplementary Benchmark for Large-Cap Managers' Performance

Talking Points: Positioning for the Green Transition: What's Your Business Opportunity?

Why Does the S&P 500® Matter to Brazil?

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Priscilla Luk

Managing Director, Global Research & Design, APAC

The S&P 500 is a renowned benchmark for large-cap U.S. equities.  The index is designed to measure 500 leading companies and captures approximately 80% coverage of investable market capitalization in the U.S. equity market.  As of year-end 2017, over USD 9.9 trillion was benchmarked to the S&P 500 alone, with indexed assets making up USD 3.4 trillion of this total.[1]  Exchange-traded products based on the S&P 500 have been cross-listed in various markets across the globe, but what creates the international appetite for U.S. equities, especially the S&P 500?  

In this paper, we will:

  • Compare the S&P 500 to the leading equity benchmark in Brazil;
  • Explore the significance of the S&P 500 in the global equity market; and
  • Compare S&P 500 performance to that of active U.S. large-cap funds.

COMPARISON OF THE S&P 500 AND THE IBOVESPA

The S&P 500 and the Bovespa Index (Ibovespa) are widely regarded as primary performance indicators for the U.S. and Brazilian equity markets, respectively. Both indices have been commonly used as benchmarks for investment in domestic stocks or equity funds. However, the indices vary significantly due to the different economic landscapes and financial market developments they reflect.

The S&P 500 comprises 500 companies and represents around 80% of the market cap of the U.S. equity market, while the Ibovespa measures the performance of the more actively traded and more representative stocks of the Brazilian equity market, covering approximately 85% total value traded on the B3 in the preceding 12-month period. Both are free-float, marketcap-weighted indices, but the S&P 500 has much greater stock diversification than the Ibovespa.

Compared with the Ibovespa, the S&P 500 is much more diverse in terms of the weight of constituents held in the index. The 10 largest S&P 500 members represent only 21.2% of the index, and the largest component, Apple, has a weight of just 3.9%. In contrast, the 10 largest stocks in the Ibovespa dominate 54.1% of the index, and the largest two members, Vale S.A. and Itau Unibanco Holding SA Pfd, carry stock weights as high as 13.0% and 10.2%, respectively (see Exhibit 1).

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Getting Smarter About Saving For College: Introducing the S&P Target Tuition Inflation Index

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Qing Li

Director, Global Research & Design

INTRODUCTION

“It’s 2018 and Americans are more burdened by student loan debt than ever. In fact, the average student loan debt for Class of 2017 graduates was $39,400, up six percent from the previous year… Americans owe over $1.48 trillion in student loan debt, spread out among about 44 million borrowers. That’s about $620 billion more than the total U.S. credit card debt.”

As reported by the College Board,[1] education costs have risen at an alarming rate in the past three decades, with an increase of 129% for private nonprofit four-year institutions and an increase of 213% for public four-year institutions.  From 1987-1988 until 2017-2018, tuition rose from USD 15,160 to USD 34,740 per year for private nonprofit four-year institutions, and in the same time period public four-year institution tuition rose from USD 3,190 to USD 9,970 per year, adjusted to reflect 2017 U.S. dollars.

As CNBC tried to put that into perspective, they pointed out in an article that a 1988 graduate of Harvard University would have spent USD 17,100 on tuition during their senior year.  Now, in their 50s, they would have to pay USD 44,990 in tuition for their child to attend Harvard today.  That makes the current cost of tuition more than 2.5 times as much as it was in 1988—a markup of 163%.[2]

Also to keep track of college tuition and fees, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes a college tuition and fees item as part of the Consumer Price Index (CPI).  This item is a component of the tuition, other school fees, and childcare index, and it is included in the education and communication group of the CPI.  The college tuition and fixed fees item accounts for about 55% of the weight of the tuition and other school fees index and is the largest component of this index.[4]

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Practice Essentials: Measuring Volatility in Australia

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Berlinda Liu

Director, Global Research & Design

Launched in March 2013, the real-time S&P/ASX 200 VIX® is designed to measure the expected 30-day volatility of the Australian benchmark equity index,the S&P/ASX 200. It uses the same methodology as the widely followed CBOE Volatility Index (VIX),which is designed to measure market expectations of near-term volatility embedded in S&P 500® options prices. Since its introduction in 1993, VIX has been viewed as the “investor fear gauge” for the equity market.  In March 2004,the CBOE Futures Exchange (CFE) began trading futures on VIX,and this has become one of the most successful futures products traded on the CFE.Due to growing interest and demand from investors,the CFE extended trading hours for VIX futures in June 2014.[1]

The success of VIX derivatives is largely due to their potential ability to hedge against the U.S. equity market.  Since VIX spot is derived from S&P 500 options prices and the equity options market is largely driven by market hedgers, VIX spot usually increases when investors rush to buy put options to protect their market exposure in a foreseeable bear market.  By the same token, VIX spot tends to decline when investors have a more optimistic view and reduce their hedging.  From Jan. 1, 2000, to June 29, 2018, the correlation between VIX spot and the S&P 500 was approximately -73%.  Exhibit 1 shows a clear negative correlation between VIX and S&P 500 returns.

The negative correlation between VIX and the S&P 500 indicates that these two indices often move in opposite directions.  Additionally, this negative correlation tends to be more pronounced in a stressed market than in a market rally.  In other words, when the equity market declines sharply, VIX usually rises quickly; when the equity market rises, VIX generally declines slowly or hovers at a relatively low level.  As a rule of thumb, high VIX levels are typically associated with a bear market. 

Although market participants cannot trade VIX spot itself, they can use derivatives that track VIX, including futures and options.  These derivatives may have different characteristics than the spot index, but they still maintain the potential hedging property of the spot index.  Exhibit 2 shows the correlations among the S&P 500, VIX spot, and two VIX futures benchmark indices in the U.S. 

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The S&P 500 Equal Weight Index: A Supplementary Benchmark for Large-Cap Managers' Performance

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Aye Soe

Managing Director, Global Head of Product Management

In January 2003, S&P Dow Jones Indices (S&P DJI) introduced the world’s first equal-weight index, the S&P 500® Equal Weight Index, leading the way for the subsequent development of non-market-cap weighted indices.[1]  Since then, it outperformed its market-cap-weighted counterpart, the S&P 500, in 16 out of 28 years, with an annualized excess return of 1.44% per year.[2]

In addition to better relative performance, equal weighting can have fundamental appeal for market participants who subscribe to the notion that market-cap weighting exhibits momentum bias, with winners getting a larger weight in the index, and potentially leading to concentration and overvaluation issues.  Therefore, for those who wish to reduce concentration risk or to separate the price of a security from its fundamentals, an equal-weight index can offer an alternative approach.

Moreover, equal-weight indexing could hit closer to home for proponents of passive indexing, given that its investment underpinning runs counter to active investing.  While active management seeks to exploit risk/return expectations of securities through a superior selection process and diversified portfolio construction, equal-weight indexing assumes that all the securities in the universe have the same expected returns and volatility.  In other words, by equal weighting, we assume that an average investor has no forecasting ability or is unable to distinguish securities’ returns and volatilities.

Therefore, one can argue that the lack of risk/return and covariance matrix assumptions in an equal-weight index makes it a natural benchmark against actively managed funds that incorporate all those expectations.  In fact, several studies have shown that an alpha-generating strategy should be able to outperform an equal-weight benchmark.[3]

Against that backdrop, we compared the performance of actively managed U.S. large-cap and large-cap core funds with the S&P 500 Equal Weight Index (see Exhibits 1 and 2) as of March 31, 2018.[4]  As we can see, over the near-term horizons (one, three, and five years), a higher percentage of large-cap funds underperformed the S&P 500 than the S&P 500 Equal Weight Index, primarily due to mega-cap securities performing well in the large-cap space and contributing significantly to S&P 500 returns over the past two years.

However, over the long-term investment horizons (10 or 15 years), a greater percentage of large-cap funds underperformed the S&P 500 Equal Weight Index than the S&P 500.  In fact, the 15-year figures paint a difficult landscape, in which close to 100% of large-cap managers underperformed the S&P 500 Equal Weight Index.

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Talking Points: Positioning for the Green Transition: What's Your Business Opportunity?

Trucost outlines some of the main considerations for companies seeking to capitalize on low-carbon business opportunities, estimated by the World Bank at USD 23 trillion between now and 2030.1

  1. What steps are companies taking to position for the green transition?

Companies are trying to make sense of fast-moving policy, market, and technology changes related to carbon and climate risk. Whether it’s about their own operations or the greener products and services they sell, corporate executives want to understand the financial implications and their competitive profile.

Corporate leaders realize it’s not about if a green transition will occur, and it’s not even about when—it’s about how fast the green transition will happen. Over 60% of the world’s largest companies have already set carbon reduction targets. More than 100 have set a target that is science based, defining a pathway to futureproof growth by specifying how much and how quickly they need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to align with global energy transition commitments. A further 400 are en route.2

The challenge for companies lies in identifying the smartest strategies to achieve their green transition goals. For most, this will mean optimizing an array of capital investments and weighing their options using robust data on financial and environmental returns.

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