What is Equal Weight? Understanding Its Impact on Portfolios and Funds, Examples, and Considerations


Unlocking the intricacies of equal weight, a proportional measuring method, this guide explores its impact on portfolios, indices, and funds. Contrasting with market capitalization weighting, we delve into historical performance, benefits, and considerations, shedding light on the rise of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and the potential advantages of equal-weighted strategies.

Equal weight in finance

Equal weight, a proportional measuring method gaining prominence in finance, takes a unique approach by assigning equal importance to each stock in a portfolio or index fund. Unlike traditional methods relying on market capitalization weighting, equal weight ensures that stocks of all sizes contribute proportionately to the overall group’s performance.

Understanding equal weight in detail

Equal weight stands in stark contrast to the conventional method of market capitalization weighting. While major indices like the S&P 500 or Dow Jones Industrial Average often prioritize larger companies, equal-weighted portfolios aim to provide a balanced representation of all stocks, irrespective of their market size.
The concept of equally-weighted portfolios has gained traction, driven by the historical outperformance of small-cap stocks. Standard & Poor’s has been at the forefront, developing over 80 equal-weight indices based on various combinations of market cap, market, and sector.

Performance of equal-weighted indices

Equal-weight portfolios tend to emphasize smaller, higher-risk, higher-reward stocks. In the short term, this often results in higher returns. For instance, from September 2020 to September 2021, the S&P 500 Equal Weight Index (EWI) outperformed the traditional S&P 500 Index with a one-year return of 41.93%, compared to 33.72%.
However, the long-term scenario tells a nuanced story. The 10-year annualized total return (September 2019-September 2021) for the S&P 500 Equal Weight Index was 15.32%, slightly trailing the S&P 500’s 16.32%. This underlines the importance of considering both short-term gains and long-term trends when evaluating equal-weighted strategies.

S&P Global introduced the S&P 500 Equal Weight Index in January 2003 as an alternative to the market-cap-weighted S&P 500. Despite comprising the same stocks, the different weighting schemes result in distinct properties and benefits for investors.

Examples of equal-weight funds

Invesco stands as a notable provider of equal-weight funds, offering exposure not only to major indices like the S&P 500 but also across various market sectors. The Invesco S&P 500 Equal Weight ETF (RSP), for instance, presents a unique investment opportunity by providing equal exposure to both the smallest and largest companies in the S&P 500.
Equal-weight index funds, such as the Invesco Russell 1000 Equal Weight ETF and the First Trust NASDAQ-100 Equal Weighted Index Fund, often exhibit higher portfolio turnover. Requiring periodic rebalancing to maintain equal proportions, these funds may incur higher trading costs and exhibit more volatile trading prices. However, they also offer potential advantages, providing additional protection during sector downturns.

Weigh the risks and benefits

Here is a list of the benefits and the drawbacks to consider.

  • Equal significance to all stocks, promoting a balanced representation.
  • Historical short-term outperformance, especially in small-cap stocks.
  • Protection during sector downturns due to diversified holdings.
  • Potentially higher trading costs due to increased portfolio turnover.
  • Increased volatility in trading prices compared to market-cap weighted index funds.
  • Short-term advantages may not always translate to long-term success.

Frequently asked questions

What are the downsides of equal-weight strategies not mentioned in the article?

Equal-weight strategies may introduce higher trading costs and increased volatility, especially during market fluctuations. Additionally, the potential short-term advantages of small-cap stocks may not always translate to long-term success.

How does an equal-weight index differ from other indexing methods?

An equal-weight index treats all stocks equally, regardless of size, while other methods, such as market-cap-weighted indices, give more weight to larger companies based on their market capitalization.

Do equal-weight index funds have any unique risks?

Yes, equal-weight index funds may exhibit higher portfolio turnover, leading to increased trading costs. Their prices can also be more volatile compared to regular market-cap weighted index funds.

Key takeaways

  • Equal weight assigns equal importance to stocks, regardless of size.
  • Historical performance shows short-term outperformance, but long-term results may vary.
  • Equal-weight index funds may have higher turnover and trading costs but offer protection during sector downturns.
View article sources
  1. CTA Equal Weighted Index – Isenberg School of Management, UMass Amherst
  2. Equal Weight ETF (RSP) – U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
  3. Index Funds – U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
  4. Price-Weighted Index: Definition, Calculation, and Insights – SuperMoney