S&P 500 historical data: What the S&P 500 index does and what it has done

The S&P 500 index is a very important tool in analysing the markets. But what has it done in the past?

In this guide

Standard and Poor's 500 (S&P 500) is a crucial tool for traders. If you want to invest in this US stock index, it makes sense to learn about S&P 500 historical data. 

But before we look at historical data, let’s look at what the S&P 500 is and what it does.

What is the S&P 500?

The S&P 500 tracks the 500 biggest public companies in the US.

Before we get into the S&P price history, let’s take a look at the history of S&P as a business.

  • In 1860, financial analyst Henry Varnum Poor launched Poor’s Publishing. To raise levels of understanding about the growing railway industry, he published History of the Railroads and Canals of the United States, updating the book every year with new financial and operational information.

  • In 1868, Poor teamed up with his son, Henry William Poor, to found H.V. & H.W. Poor Co., which published annual directories about American railways and investing in them.

  • In 1906, Luther Lee Blake founded the Standard Statistics Bureau, which released cards about the financial status of American businesses that were not railways.

  • In 1923, the Bureau, now renamed the Standard Statistics Company (SSC), started publishing a weekly stock market index of 233 American companies.

  • In 1926, the SSC began putting out a daily index of 90 companies.

  • In 1941, the Standard Statistics Company merged with Poor’s to become Standard & Poor’s.

  • In 1957, the index expanded to 500 companies.

How does a company get onto the S&P 500?

According to the guidelines set out by S&P, a company becomes eligible for the S&P 500 if it meets the following criteria:

  • Is based in the United States.
  • Has a market capitalisation of at least $11.8bn.
  • Has high liquidity.
  • Has a public float of at least 10% of its shares.
  • Has positive earnings for the most recent financial quarter and overall positive earnings for the four quarters before that.

Meeting these criteria does not mean a company will automatically go on the S&P 500. Every three months, the S&P US Index Committee meets to decide which companies appear on the index, taking into account which sector a company operates in. For instance, if one particular sector makes up around a quarter of large businesses in the US, then the S&P 500 will look to accommodate around 25% of its makeup to that sector. 

As noted, membership is not automatic. The index features both household names, such as Amazon, American Express, and Ford, and less well-known companies, such as Illinois Tool Works, Skyworks Solutions and Thermo Fisher Scientific.

Although S&P doesn’t reveal the names of committee members to the public, it does say: 

“All committee members are full-time professional members of S&P Dow Jones Indices’ staff.”

Despite the secrecy, it is known that David M Blitzer, who maintained a high profile despite his membership of the committee,  chaired the committee from 1995 to 2019. The current CEO of S&P Dow Jones Indices is Dan Draper.  

Another point is that while the S&P 500 features 500 companies, it often has more than 500 listings because some companies have two classes of shares, with one having more voting rights than the other. If the company is on the index, then both share types will be listed separately. However, the S&P committee has ruled that dual-class companies currently on the list will be the last ones to appear in such a format. 

How the index score is calculated

The index score helps people understand how companies are doing and the overall strength of the market. It is calculated in the following way:

Find a company’s free-float market capitalisation by multiplying the price of its shares by the number of shares actively available in the market, excluding nominal, locked-in shares, such as those allocated to company executives and governments. Perform the same calculation for all companies on the index and add them together. Once you have done that, you then divide that figure. However, the divisor is not made public. Its job is to make the large numbers for the S&P float-adjusted market cap more manageable. 

What is the S&P 500 historical data?

One way to explore the S&P 500 index price history is through this widget.

US500 price history

Date Close Change Change(%) Open High Low
Oct 22, 2021 4538.8 -0.5 -0.01% 4539.3 4561.1 4524.9
Oct 21, 2021 4539.2 9.3 0.21% 4529.9 4552.5 4519.6
Oct 20, 2021 4529.9 4.6 0.10% 4525.3 4541.7 4513.7
Oct 19, 2021 4525.2 38.1 0.85% 4487.1 4527.2 4482.1
Oct 18, 2021 4487.0 24.7 0.55% 4462.3 4489.4 4445.9
Oct 17, 2021 4462.2 -16.7 -0.37% 4478.9 4478.9 4461.8
Oct 15, 2021 4474.3 28.5 0.64% 4445.8 4476.8 4435.8
Oct 14, 2021 4445.8 74.0 1.69% 4371.8 4447.7 4371.4
Oct 13, 2021 4372.0 34.1 0.79% 4337.9 4374.6 4329.0
Oct 12, 2021 4338.0 -20.3 -0.47% 4358.3 4375.4 4327.2
Oct 11, 2021 4358.3 -10.1 -0.23% 4368.4 4417.5 4352.3
Oct 10, 2021 4368.3 -27.7 -0.63% 4396.0 4398.0 4362.4
Oct 8, 2021 4390.6 -19.9 -0.45% 4410.5 4417.9 4386.4
Oct 7, 2021 4410.5 34.8 0.80% 4375.7 4431.4 4373.0
Oct 6, 2021 4375.8 36.4 0.84% 4339.4 4381.6 4285.2
Oct 5, 2021 4339.5 34.8 0.81% 4304.7 4370.8 4280.7
Oct 4, 2021 4304.7 -64.8 -1.48% 4369.5 4370.1 4279.4
Oct 3, 2021 4369.4 3.4 0.08% 4366.0 4373.4 4358.8
Oct 1, 2021 4362.0 44.8 1.04% 4317.2 4377.1 4271.9
Sep 30, 2021 4317.3 -56.6 -1.29% 4373.9 4399.8 4305.9

Why look at S&P 500 historical data?

S&P 500 history price chart

Although past results in no way indicate future performance, it’s helpful to have some idea of how things have gone. If you’re a trader, it can be useful to look at how the stock market has behaved during past events. For instance, if there’s another pandemic, then looking at the S&P 500 index historical data from 2020 and 2021 might give investors clues as to how the market will react to massive disruption in the future. Likewise, you can look at economic downturns. If you have the information on why they happened (which the index does not provide, so you should do your own research) and the markets’ reaction to them, you can make a more informed decision about what to do in similar circumstances.

S&P 500 historical data is also useful when it comes to assessing whether current price indicates future growth, looking at the index’s response to economic booms.

Analysis tools, such as zig zag graph, can also give traders an edge. But traders must do their own research and not rely on S&P 500 historical prices.

How to trade and buy into the S&P 500

There are several ways to invest in the S&P 500. You can consider index-related funds, such as mutual funds. This is a fairly passive way of investing, which means you may not be able to take advantage of opportunities offered by short-term trading. 

You can open positions via a bank or broker. This does have the drawback, though, of having your profits tied up with the amount you have invested, so there is no scope to trade in the margins. In addition, you cannot use cryptocurrencies to do this, you have to use fiat.

Through currency.com, you can trade with either crypto or fiat currency. You can also use our leveraged trading platform to open much bigger trading platforms, with a leverage of up to 1:100. You can take profit orders and our system can execute 50 million trades per second. However, you do need to do your own research, remember markets can go down as well as up, and never invest more than you can afford to lose. 

Trade USA 500 - US500 price chart

USA 500
Daily change
4538.8
Low: 4532.5
High: 4556.5

Further reading

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