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How to Choose an Benchmark – Market Indexes

We get lots of questions about indexes, specifically what are the appropriate indexes to use on the spreadsheet benchmark field. The short answer is… for US Equities use an US equity benchmark (SP-DA – S&P 500 div adjusted) and bonds use a bond benchmark (AGG-X – Barclays Aggregate Bond Ix) .

But, if you’re doing a more specific analysis, use a more specific index. For example:

High Yield: MLHY- Merrill Lynch US HY Master II H0A0 Index
Financial Equities: IYF-X ETFINDEX Financial Index
Preferreds: PFF-X ETFINDEX S&P US Preferred Stock Ix
Semiconductors: SCY-X ETFINDEX Semiconductor Index
BioTech – DJ-BT Indexfam DJ US Biotechnology Index
Global STocks – DJW-X Indexfam DJ Global Index
China – DJ-CB Indexfam DJ China Broad Market Index

FastTrack’s got an index family that lists all indexes in the database. Today we have over 400 and are adding more as they appear. Also, in FT Cloud you can click the “search” link at the top of every page to open the search window. There are you can ticker and key word search all indexes (as well as the rest of the database.)

While we’re on the topic of indexes, here’s an interesting article on the makeup of the popular AGG Aggregate bond index. Below is a great quote from the article. Like many traditional indexes, AGG is a market cap weighted index. While we all can understand this in equities (larger the value of combined equity the larger the weighting). For bonds though, it’s the larger the total outstanding debt, the larger the weighting. So… more debt (and sometimes leverage), the higher the weighting. Its not quite the same math.

“If you think about the construction of traditional indices, a market-cap weighting structure. It makes more sense in equities. On the bond side, it gets a lot harder. A market-cap weighting system where you give the highest weight to the most indebted issuers is not ideal,” ….