Most investors around the world are familiar with the S&P 500 index.

Not only is it the most widely accepted barometer of U.S. stock market performance, but it’s also been on a 10-year bull run, now sitting at all-time highs near 3,170.

This week, we chart those historical returns, and then use the U.S. benchmark as a backdrop to compare other major stock markets around the world, such as those in Europe, Asia, and Canada.

Putting Them All at Scale

One challenge in comparing global markets directly is that all indices are on arbitrary scales.

To directly compare them, the most natural option would be to transform the data to percentage terms. While that’s all fine and dandy, it’s also a little boring.

To make things more interesting, we’ve collected historical data that goes back nearly 30 years for each index. This was mostly done using Macrotrends, a fantastic resource for historical data. We used November 26th, 1990 as a cut-off date, since that was the earliest data point available for some of the country indices used.

We then transformed all of this data to be on the same scale of the S&P 500, so performance can be directly compared to the common American stock market benchmark.

Comparing Markets Using the S&P 500

Alright, now that we have the same scale for each market, let’s dive into the data:

Country Benchmark Current Value (in S&P 500 terms) Gain since Nov 26, 1990
🇺🇸 United States S&P 500 3,168 +901%
🇭🇰 Hong Kong Hang Seng Comp. 2,926 +824%
🇩🇪 Germany DAX 30 2,913 +820%
🇨🇦 Canada S&P/TSX Comp. 1,717 +444%
🇫🇷 France CAC 40 1,160 +268%
🇬🇧 United Kingdom FTSE 100 1,072 +238%
🇯🇵 Japan Nikkei 225 315 +1%

Note: Data has been transformed to match the scale of the S&P 500, and is current as of December 13, 2019

If you invested $100 in the U.S. market on November 26, 1990, you’d have over $1,000 today.

Over nearly 30 years, the S&P 500 has increased by 901%, which is the most out any of these major indices. If you invested in the German or Hong Kong markets, you’d have fairly similar results as well — each gained more than 800% over the same time period.

Meanwhile, the markets in Canada, France, and the United Kingdom have all increased, but at a far slower pace:

  • In S&P 500 terms, Canada would be sitting at 1,717 — which is where the U.S. market was back in 2013.
  • France would be at 1,160, a mark the S&P 500 last hit in 2010.
  • The United Kingdom would sit at 1,072, also equivalent to 2010 for the U.S. market.

Finally, in S&P 500 terms, the Japanese stock market would be at a lowly 315 points today — roughly where it started 30 years ago. In other words, if you had invested $100 in Japanese stocks in 1990, you’d have gained just $1 over a period of three decades.

First published on the Visual Capitalist.

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