Stock market index

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A stock market index is a method of measuring a section of the stock market. Many indices are cited by news or financial services firms and are used as benchmarks, to measure the performance of portfolios such as mutual funds.

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Types of indices

Stock market indices may be classed in many ways. A 'world' or 'global' stock market index includes (typically large) companies without regard for where they are domiciled or traded. Two examples are MSCI World and S&P Global 100.

A 'national' index represents the performance of the stock market of a given nation—and by proxy, reflects investor sentiment on the state of its economy. The most regularly quoted market indices are national indices composed of the stocks of large companies listed on a nation's largest stock exchanges, such as the American S&P 500, the Japanese Nikkei 225, and the British FTSE 100.

The concept may be extended well beyond an exchange. The Wilshire 5000 Index, the original total market index, represents the stocks of nearly every publicly traded company in the United States, including all U.S. stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange (but not ADRs or limited partnerships), NASDAQ and American Stock Exchange. Russell Investment Group added to the family of indices by launching the Russell Global Index.

More specialised indices exist tracking the performance of specific sectors of the market. Some examples include the Wilshire US REIT which tracks more than 80 American Real Estate Investment Trusts and the Morgan Stanley Biotech Index which consists of 36 American firms in the biotechnology industry. Other indices may track companies of a certain size, a certain type of management, or even more specialized criteria — one index published by Linux Weekly News tracks stocks of companies that sell products and services based on the Linux operating environment.

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