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The Dow Still Matters -- but Here's an Even Hotter Index

I've been known to berate the venerable Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) for a couple of simple reasons. For one, the 30 chosen tickers don't always reflect the broader stock market or the American economy in general. Far worse, the Dow is weighted by share price. This strange choice means that IBM's (NYSE: IBM  ) price moves affect Dow values about twice as much as ExxonMobil's (NYSE: XOM  ) -- even though the oil giant sports nearly double Big Blue's market cap. And never mind that Exxon produces stronger cash flows on nearly five times IBM's annual revenue. Doesn't matter, because IBM has divided its public ownership into fewer shares. At nearly $200 per share, IBM moves the Dow needle much more easily than Exxon's paltry $100 per-share ticket.

But for all its flaws, the Dow has actually tracked the broader market pretty well over the years.

^DJI Chart

^DJI data by YCharts.

The S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC  ) is a less elite selection of 500 major businesses, weighted by float-adjusted market caps. The Russell 3000 includes the 3,000 largest U.S. companies, measured and weighted by total market value. Given the market cap focus, Exxon duels Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) for these weighting thrones.

Both of these broader-market trackers have outperformed the Dow over the last decade, but it's hardly a crushing defeat. Hand-picked curation has kept the Dow reasonably close to these rival indexes. So I simply cannot point to that chart and ask you to ignore the Dow.

But have you seen this chart?

^DJI Chart

^DJI data by YCharts

The Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQINDEX: ^IXIC  ) index tracks every stock, share, and depositary receipt traded on the Nasdaq market -- currently more than 3,000 tickers. The 100 index whittles that large field down to "100 of the largest domestic and international non-financial securities." So there are no banks -- but plenty of tech stocks. Both of these are weighted by market cap, just like the Russell and similar to the S&P 500.

Once again, Apple's titanic market cap makes Cupertino crucially important to the Nasdaq trackers. But Exxon trades on the NYSE, so Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) snags the runner-up title here.

The vast majority of the Nasdaq companies work in computer hardware, software, and services, with a generous side of biotech specialists. If you're interested in growth stocks at all, this is where you should be looking.

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