Exxon Mobil exits exclusive Dow Jones Industrial Average club as focus shifts to tech firms

Sarah Ponczek and Katherine Greifeld August 24, 2020

NEW YORK (Bloomberg) --Exxon Mobil, Pfizer and Raytheon Technologies were kicked out of the Dow Jones Industrial Average as part of the stock benchmark’s biggest reshuffling in seven years, actions that will boost the influence of technology companies that have dominated the 2020 stock market.

Salesforce.com, Amgen Inc. and Honeywell International will enter the 124-year old equity gauge a week from today, its overseers said. The moves were prompted when Apple Inc.’s stock split effectively reduced the sway of computer and software stocks in the price-weighted average.

While any change to the Dow is notable, the ejection of Exxon Mobil -- the world’s biggest company as recently as 2011 -- marks a particularly stunning fall from grace, reflecting the decline of commodity companies in the American economy. Worth $525 billion in 2007 and more than $450 billion as recently 2014, the stock had fallen in four of six years before 2020 and is down another 40% since January.

“Those changes are a sign of the times - out with energy and in with cloud,” said Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer for Independent Advisor Alliance.

The latest reshuffling is more testament to the ascent of technology companies, a trend amplified by this year’s Covid 19 lockdowns. While the Dow average is still 4.2% off its February record, the tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 is almost 20% above the pre-pandemic all-time high.

Founded in 1999, Salesforce was one of the best-performing stocks of the bull market following the global financial crisis, rising 27-fold since March 2009. Amgen is among the world’s biggest biotechnology companies with a market value of about $137 billion, though it’s replacing a company -- Pfizer Inc. -- that is about $90 billion larger.

Stocks of the affected companies were quick to price in the shake-up. Shares of Exxon dropped 2% as of 6:10 p.m. in New York, in after-hours trading, while Raytheon fell 3%. Honeywell climbed 3.5% and Salesforce.com rose 4%. Pfizer dropped 1.9% and Amgen rose 4%.

This is the second time a stock split by Apple has had profound consequences for the Dow average. The first was in 2014, when its 7-for-1 split lowered the price of its shares enough to make inclusion feasible. Apple’s decision to do it again this year effectively lowered its sway on the price-weighted average, making the influence of technology companies too small in the eyes of the Dow’s handlers.

Under-representation of technology companies has occasionally penalized the Dow in 2020, when it has frequently trailed the market-cap weighted S&P 500, whose concentration on megacap companies like Amazon.com and Alphabet has juiced its returns. Neither of those companies are effectively eligible for the Dow given their $1,000-plus share prices.

The blue-chip index weights its constituents by price rather than market value, making it different from the broader S&P 500. A committee chooses members in an effort to maintain “adequate” sector representation and favors a company that “has an excellent reputation, demonstrates sustained growth and is of interest to a large number of investors,” according to its website. Other major indexes add and subtract members on a rules-based process.

Honeywell, meanwhile, is returning to the average after being kicked out 12 years ago to make way for a financial services company, Bank of America, and an energy producer, Chevron. Its shares are down about 9% in 2020 but before that had risen in 10 of 11 years, pushing its market value above $100 billion.

The New Dow Jones Industrial Average

While the Dow’s influence has faded over the years as passive managers linked to benchmarks based on market value, the index remains an exclusive club and still serves as one of the highest profile showcase of American industrial heft. Roughly $31.5 billion of assets are benchmarked to the Dow, with $28.2 billion of passively managed funds linked. (The figures are $11.2 trillion and $4.6 trillion for the S&P 500.)

The last time three companies were added to the Dow was seven years ago, when Visa Inc., Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Nike Inc. displaced Bank of America Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Alcoa Inc.

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