Yet many of those investors could well see part of their fortunes tied to the social-media giant before the month is out. With the annual rebalancing of the Russell indexes, Facebook stands to gain a place among some of the most-followed indexes in the world -- and after the changes take effect, index funds that you own could well hold Facebook shares.
Why you'll own Facebook
Index funds give you a cheap, easy way to invest. By having you own a portion of every single member of a given index, you'll get a diversified set of investments that includes companies from every corner of the market.
But as I pointed out back in February shortly after Facebook announced its IPO, index funds are slaves to the indexes they track. So as newly public stocks qualify for inclusion in various indexes, the funds that track those indexes will have no choice but to buy shares.
Russell's annual June rebalancing makes it the first major index to pick up Facebook. In addition to the social-media company, the Russell 1000 index of large-cap stocks will also likely include payment processing company Vantiv
Much ado about little
Compared with previous years, 2012's Russell rebalancing looks to be relatively minor in scope. In 2010, for instance, Berkshire Hathaway
But this year, an estimate from Credit Suisse suggests that just 1.5% of the value of the Russell 1000 will be affected by additions and deletions, which is the smallest such percentage in eight years. Still, given that about $3.9 trillion tracks various global Russell indexes, there's plenty of money at stake.
Getting a good deal?
The good news for Russell index investors is that at least for now, funds have an opportunity to buy the estimated 13.5 million shares they'll need at a much cheaper price than IPO participants paid. In the past, excitement about IPOs often led to index funds having to pay premium prices for shares -- only to watch them fall once index-based demand fell off.
But the big question for Facebook investors is what will happen when other indexes get around to adding the stock. The Nasdaq 100 changed its rules to cut the period a company has to trade on public markets from two years to just three months, potentially making Facebook eligible to join the index later this year. The S&P 500, meanwhile, has a more fluid set of guidelines governing additions, but even with Facebook's decline, its market cap is still more than high enough to justify inclusion at its earliest opportunity. All the buying pressure from those other index funds and ETFs could push Facebook's price higher -- at least in the short run.
The downside of index funds
Unfortunately, there's not much you can do to avoid having Facebook in your index funds, short of boycotting the products entirely. Given how useful the products are for low-maintenance, cheap investing, begrudging Facebook its place among highly valued companies probably isn't worth the hassle of finding other ways to replace index funds in your portfolios.
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