Goldman Sachs is in the process of selling the Dow Jones Industrial Average on behalf of News Corporation, John Carney at Business Insider reports. But is it really worth much?
The index is actually "in a sales process... earlier stage," Carney reports. If someone completes a buy of the index, it certainly won't be for its informational value; the Dow was born 113 years ago with just 12 stocks and still has just 30. It's been surpassed by several indexes tracking thousands of stocks, weighted to reflect reflecting the entire market.
No, the Dow's value is in its media ubiquity — in newspaper, television and radio reports, even online, it remains the favored way to summarize market gyrtions. The free branding is of limited use to Murdoch and his also-ran Dow Jones Newswires, and would be worth more to competing financial information services like Bloomberg or Thomson Reuters. But if they buy and rename the index, it will inevitably become less popular. If CNBC or the New York Time is going to have to introduce readers to a new index, why not switch to a high-fidelity one not run by a direct competitor?
So the DJIA might go to a Bloomberg-type company, or just sell for cheap as a free advertising play — "OfficeMax Industrial AverageTM" here we come! But the real competition will be in the scramble to replace the average. S&P 500? Wilshire 5000? Russell 3000? Whatever, so long as business news is just that much more boring.