Often referred to as the Dow, the DJIA is one of the oldest, single most-watched indices in the world and includes companies such as the Walt Disney Company, Exxon Mobil Corporation and Microsoft Corporation. When the TV networks say “the market is up today,” they are generally referring to the Dow.
Named after the index’s founder Charles Dow and his business partner Edward Jones, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was designed to serve as a proxy for the broader U.S. economy. When the index launched, it included just 12 companies that were almost purely industrial in nature. The first components operated in railroads, cotton, gas, sugar, tobacco and oil.
As the economy changes over time, so does the composition of the index. The Dow typically makes changes when a company experiences financial distress and becomes less representative of the economy, or when a broader economic shift occurs and a change needs to be made to reflect it.
Components of the Dow
How the Index Is Calculated
The Dow is a price-weighted index. This means stocks with higher share prices are given a greater weight in the index. At the Dow’s inception, Charles Dow calculated the average by adding the prices of the 12 Dow component stocks and dividing by 12. Over time, there have been additions and subtractions to the index, such as mergers and stock splits that had to be accounted for in the index. When one of these events occurs, the divisor for the Dow gets adjusted so the index’s value does not become affected. This is why the Dow can stand at 17,000 while the sum total of the components’ stock prices is nowhere near that number.
Changes to the Index Over Time
The index grew to 30 components in 1928 and has changed components a total of 51 times. The first change came just three months after the index was launched. In its first few years until roughly the Great Depression, there were many changes to its components. In 1932, eight stocks within the Dow were replaced. However, during this change, the Coca-Cola Company and Procter & Gamble Co. were added to the index, two stocks that are still part of the Dow in 2019.
The most recent large scale change to the Dow took place in 1997 when four of the index’s components were replaced. Two years later, in 1999, four more components of the Dow were changed. The most recent change took place on June 26, 2018, when Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc. replaced General Electric Company.
Key Historical Dates for the DJIA
The following are some of the milestones hit by the DJIA:
Mar. 15, 1933: The largest one-day percentage gain in the index happened during the 1930s bear market, totaling 15.34 percent. The Dow gained 8.26 points and closed at 62.10.
Oct. 19, 1987: The largest one-day percentage drop took place on Black Monday. The index fell 22.61 percent. There were no evident explanations behind the crash, although program trading may have had a contributing factor.
Sept. 17, 2001: The fourth-largest one-day point drop — and the largest at the time — took place the first day of trading following the 9/11 attacks in New York City. The Dow dropped 684.81 points or about 7.1 percent. However, it is important to note that the index had been dropping before Sept. 11, losing more than 1,000 points between Jan. 2 and Sept. 10. The DJIA, however, started to make traction after the attacks and regained all of what it lost, closing above the 10,000 mark for the year.
May 3, 2013: The Dow surpassed the 15,000 mark for the first time in history.
Jan. 25, 2017: The Dow closes above 20,000 points for the first time.
Jan. 4, 2018: The index closes at 25,075.13, the first close above 25,000 points.
Jan. 17, 2018: The Dow closes at 26,115.65, the first close above 26,000 points.
Feb. 5, 2018: The Dow fell a record 1175.21 points.
Sept. 21, 2018: The index hit its current record of 26,743.50.
Dec. 26, 2018: The Dow recorded its largest one-day point gain of 1086.25.
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