The desirability of tracking the performance of elite stocks led nations in Eurasia, North and South America, Africa, and Australia to establish stock exchanges in the 20th century. Dating to 1983, the Amsterdam Stock Exchange Index, today the AEX Index, has listed as many as 25 of the most traded Dutch stocks. As an aid to traders the AEX Index posts current data on the performance of its stocks as well as data on the Internet with a 20-minute lag. Several instruments, for example, index reports, serve the AEX Index in its task of sharing with investors the minutia of stock performance. The AEX Index includes Dutch companies that trade on the Euronext Amsterdam.
On January 3, 1983, the AEX-Optiebeurs began compiling the AEX Index. The original 13 stocks totaled 100 points. The AEX Index calculated the value of stocks by multiplying the price of each stock by its weighted factor, 15 percent of a stock’s value, summing these amounts and then dividing the aggregate by 100, establishing the value of the index. Among the original 13 companies were the brewer Heineken and the energy company Royal Dutch Shell, both of which have remained on the index to the present. In 1987 investors began trading options and in 1988, futures. To these original 13 companies, the index added five companies, the largest single addition to date, in 1989. The index began on February 18, 1994, to review its composition of stocks, reserving the right to delete stocks from its roster. The AEX Index removed from its list companies whose capital fell below the 25 most capitalized companies in the Netherlands. Subsequently the index established two review dates: March 1 and September 1 of each year.
The index bases its review on the closing price of stocks on the last day of trading in January and June. When the index deletes a company from its roster, it leaves the slot vacant until the next review date, whether in March or September, when it may invite a new company to join. This new company must score in the top 25 in capitalization. If a company has more than one class of stock traded on the Euronext, the AEX Index will accept only the more actively traded class of stock. In addition, in the March and September reviews, the index adjusts the weight of each company, which rises and falls with a company’s performance. Following its March and September reviews, the index makes effective any changes in its composition on the next trading day.
On January 4, 1999, the AEX Index began calculating the value of its stocks in Euros. The index’s 100 points equals just over €45. Among the index’s current holdings is a mix of companies. Banks, life insurance companies, and real estate developers, all of them represented on the index, were the tools for amassing wealth in the 20th century. With the rise of energy prices in the 21st century, companies that process, deliver, and provide equipment for the extraction and distribution of energy have prospered on the index. The petroleum and natural gas supplier Royal Dutch Shell and the petroleum equipment manufacturer Single Buoy Moorings (SBM) Offshore, both of them on the index, have surged in 2008. Also on the index are telecommunications equipment supplier Tom, electronics manufacturer Philips, and semiconductor manufacturer ASML.
Worldwide economic fluctuations affect the index. The frenzied selling of stocks on Black Monday in 1987 sent the AEX Index into decline; conversely, the enthusiastic buying of internet companies in the early 21st century resulted in a bubble. The AEX Index peaked at 703.18 on September 5, 2000, at the height of the bubble. The end of speculation in internet company stocks more than halved the index’s value between late 2001 and 2003. During 2007–08 the AEX Index ranged between 374.09 and 559.43, with the lower value only 53 percent of the peak and the higher value 79.5 percent of the peak.
Investors may buy stocks on the index as well as funds that index the AEX Index. Comprising large cap stocks, the index relies increasingly for the value of its portfolio on technology and energy companies. The index balances technology and energy, important as they are, with publishers and the processors of food. The result is a diversity of companies. This diversity hedges against steep losses and rapid ascents, for technology, energy, publishing, food processing, banking, and other classes of companies, whose stocks are not likely all to be up or down on a given day. Rather, gains in one sector offset losses in another. Investors, buying and selling stocks as the opportunity arises, will point the index toward the future. Savvy as they are, investors and pundits are unlikely to pinpoint the future course of the index.
- NYSE Euronext, www.nyse.com/aex (cited March 2009);
- C. S. Warendorf and R. L. Thomas, The Netherlands Securities Trading Act and Official Commentary (Kluwer Law and Taxation, 1986).
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