Dow Jones Industrial Average vs. S&P 500

Dow Jones Industrial Average vs. S&P 500

4 Min.

The DJIA tracks the stock prices of 30 of the largest American corporations, while the S&P 500 monitors 500 large-cap American stocks. Both indices provide a comprehensive overview of the state of the stock market as a whole.


The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) and the Standard & Poor's 500 Index (S&P 500) are prominent stock market indicators in the United States. Despite individual preferences among investors, both serve the common objective of offering a comprehensive perspective on the overall direction and magnitude of stock price fluctuations in real time. They each derive their numerical values by monitoring price shifts in distinct stock lists, each employing its unique methodology. Although there is some overlap, the selection of stocks and calculation methods differ.

Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA)

Established in 1896, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has a rich history as America's original stock index. Initially designed to monitor 12 major corporate entities, today's DJIA encompasses 30 prestigious blue-chip stocks.

Despite its name, the term "industrial" in DJIA is a historical relic, as most index components no longer hail from the manufacturing sector. Instead, they represent various significant sectors, with utilities and transportation having dedicated Dow Jones indexes. All DJIA constituents boast household recognition, featuring stalwarts like Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Coca-Cola (KO), Disney (DIS), and Microsoft (MSFT).

Selection for inclusion in the DJIA is somewhat opaque, focusing on industry leadership and substantial market capitalization. Changes to the index composition are infrequent and carefully considered, often involving multiple replacements during periodic reviews.

In terms of weighting, the DJIA adopts a price-weighted approach utilizing the Dow Divisor, which mitigates the impact of stock splits and dividends. Consequently, the DJIA reacts primarily to stock price fluctuations, magnifying the influence of higher-priced stocks and significant price movements.

Standard & Poor's 500 Index (S&P 500)

Established in 1957, the S&P 500 Index monitors 500 prominent publicly traded American stocks, encompassing diverse sectors of the economy. An expert committee meticulously selects these stocks, adhering to specific criteria. Eligible stocks must possess a market capitalization of at least $12.7 billion, a public float exceeding 10%, positive earnings over the last four quarters, and sufficient liquidity gauged by price and volume.

The S&P 500's sector distribution is predominantly composed of information technology (28.3%), healthcare (13.4%), and financials (12.4%). As of June 30, 2023, the top 10 index constituents, by weight, include:

  1. Apple (AAPL)
  2. Microsoft (MSFT)
  3. Amazon (AMZN)
  5. Alphabet Class A (GOOGL)
  6. Tesla (TSLA)
  7. Meta Class A (META)
  8. Alphabet Class C (GOOG)
  9. Berkshire Hathaway Class B (BRK.B)
  10. UnitedHealth Group (UNH)

Notably, the S&P 500 employs market value weighting, ensuring that a 10% change in a $20 stock has an equivalent impact as a 10% change in a $50 stock on the index.

Comparing Dow Jones and S&P 500: Choosing Between Two Economic Barometers

Determining the superior index between the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 remains elusive. Both serve as crucial indicators of the U.S. economy due to their inclusion of substantial corporations. Nonetheless, a pivotal contrast sets them apart: the S&P 500 boasts 500 of the nation's largest enterprises, leading some investors to perceive it as a more precise reflection of economic conditions. Conversely, the Dow Jones comprises a mere 30 blue-chip corporations.

Investing in DJIA and S&P 500: Indirect Routes

Direct investment in the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 is impossible since they are stock market indices. However, you can invest in financial instruments designed to mirror their performance. Several mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) aim to replicate the movements of these indices. By acquiring shares in these instruments, you can participate in their performance, which is periodically adjusted in a manner similar to the DJIA and S&P 500.


Both the DJIA and S&P 500 serve as tools for investors to gauge the overall direction of the U.S. stock market. However, the S&P 500 offers a broader perspective, encompassing a larger cross-section of total U.S. stocks in its evaluation.

Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA)
Standard & Poor's 500 Index (S&P 500)
Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs)
Market Index