Stockholm General Index Essay

The Stockholm General Index—or the Affarsvarlden General Index—now usually known as the OMX Stockholm 30 (although this has a slightly different balance of companies), is a weighted listing of major companies traded on the Stockholm Stock Exchange in Sweden. Founded in the Swedish capital in 1863, the stock exchange is the primary securities exchange for the Nordic countries.

Since its creation, the Stockholm Stock Exchange has been important for raising capital in Sweden and also other parts of Scandinavia, particularly Norway, which was a part of the United Kingdoms of Sweden and Norway from 1814 until 1905. The Stockholm General Index was established to provide an easily accessible measure of the performance of the stock exchange by including the major companies, but weighting them against their importance and market capitalization.

Traditionally, the market has generally been buoyant, but it was badly affected by the start of the Great Depression, and indeed, in 1931, the index of shares on the Stockholm Stock Exchange registered the biggest fall of any major stock exchange in the world, more than Wall Street. This was accompanied by a major fall in the price on world markets of the Swedish kronor, which forced the temporary closure of the Stockholm Stock Exchange from September 29, 1931. Indeed, in March 1932, the Riksdag, the Swedish parliament, had to rush through legislation to stabilize the economy after the suicide of Ivar Krueger, which once again shook the nervous stock exchange. As a result, this period has attracted interest from historians, and by January 1934, the shares were trading at about 10 percent of their prices seven years earlier.

In the early period of World War II, the Stockholm General Index fell, and the market remained depressed, although it did pick up as Sweden benefited from its position of neutrality. In contrast to the economic performance of Sweden in the 1930s, after World War II the Swedish economy boomed, and this led to a dramatic rise in the values of many shares quoted in Stockholm, which was reflected in a steady increase throughout that period in the Stockholm General Index, regularly achieving “all-time highs,” reaching 1,002.99 on January 9, 1989, buoyed in spite of the decision by the Swedish government in December 1988 to introduce a 15-percent tax on profits. It continued to rise and by January 1994 reached 1,603.9, but fell by July 1994 to 1,334.7, reaching 1,440.90 in September of the same year.

In the previous year, the Stockholm Stock Exchange had achieved much attention around the world because of a stock market competition that was played out in August–September 1993 when five Swedish stock analysts were given a nominal sum of $1,250, which they had to invest to see whether they could achieve better results than the Stockholm General Index. These competitions had been staged since the early 20th century, but this time, the newspaper Expressen managed to get Ola, a chimpanzee in the Stockholm Zoo, to stick pins into a board that had names of companies that were taken to represent the primate’s “choice” for a share portfolio. Within four weeks, Ola was well ahead of the analysts, having made $190, about 15 percent.

All trading took place on the floor of the Stockholm Stock Exchange Building until June 1, 1990, when electronic trading changed that, and this helped encourage computer buying and selling which, in turn, not only increased the volume of shares bought and sold, but also led to more fluctuation in the Stockholm General Index. In 1998 the Stockholm Stock Exchange was bought by OMX, and five years later, its operations were merged with those of the Helsinki Stock Exchange. There are currently 79 members of the Stockholm Stock Exchange with 310 companies being listed and a market capitalization of 2,521 billion Swedish kronor (approximately $394 billion).

The 30 companies that make up the OMX Stockholm 30 are weighted heavily toward the largest companies. H&M is involved in the retail of apparel, with Nordea, representing diversified banks, TeliaSonera, for integrated telecommunication services, together making up a third of the shares traded. Probably one of the most well-known Swedish companies, Volvo, makes up 5.2 percent of the Index. The other companies that make up the OMX Stockholm 30 are ABB, Alfa Laval, Assa Abloy, AstraZeneca, Atlas Copco (class A), Atlas Copco (class B), Boliden, Electrolux, Eniro, Ericsson, Investor, Lundin Petroleum, Nokia, Sandvik, SCA, SCANIA, SEB, Securitas, Skanska, SKF, SSAB, Svenska Handelsbanken, Swedbank, Swedish Match, Tele2, and Vostok Gas.

Bibliography:

  1. Tommy Bengtsson, ed., Population, Economy and Welfare in Sweden (Springer-Verlag, 1994);
  2. Jonas Bernhardsson, Tradingguiden (Bokförlaget Fischer, 2002);
  3. Jonathan Fuerbringer, “The Yin-Yang of Rates and Earnings,” New York Times (February 10, 1991);
  4. Richard W. Stevenson, “Still Ungainly, Sweden Holds Promise,” New York Times (September 11, 1994).

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