Apple’s Stock Split Could Dampen the Dow

iPhone maker Apple (AAPL), currently the most important stock in the blue-chip average, will see its influence decline substantially after a 4-for-1 split.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Apple (AAPL, $384.76) announced during its fiscal third-quarter report that it will undergo a 4-for-1 stock split in late August.

Investors who pushed the stock to fresh all-time highs in the following trading session seemed excited enough. But it’s not exactly great news for the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

That's because the Dow is a rarity in the world of stock market measures.

Subscribe to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

Be a smarter, better informed investor.

Save up to 74%

Sign up for Kiplinger’s Free E-Newsletters

Profit and prosper with the best of expert advice on investing, taxes, retirement, personal finance and more - straight to your e-mail.

Profit and prosper with the best of expert advice - straight to your e-mail.

Sign up

Why Apple’s Stock Split Is a Downer for the Dow

Many indices including the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite are market cap-weighted, meaning the larger the company, the greater its representation in the index. But the blue-chip industrial average is price-weighted. As such, the Dow stock with the highest share price has the largest effect on the direction of the average.

Apple, with its $410 sticker price, is the most influential Dow component and has been since it leapfrogged UnitedHealth Group (UNH) in late April. UNH, at No. 2 in the Dow, currently goes for about $300.

Thus, Apple’s stock split won't affect its leadership in the S&P 500 or Nasdaq Composite. In fact, Apple's market value of more than $1.6 trillion makes it the most influential member of those two indices.

But AAPL splitting 4-for-1 means that, for now, Apple will have far less impact on the price-weighted Dow Jones Industrial Average. And that’s discouraging considering that Apple, up 40% year-to-date, has been one of the few bright spots in a dismal year for the industrial average.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq is up a whopping 18% so far this year, helped in no small part by Apple. The S&P 500 is flat, with Apple doing more than its fair share to keep it afloat.

But the Dow is down more than 8%. And it will be harder to make up lost ground after cutting Apple's influence. After AAPL splits and begins trading at around $100 a share, it will be somewhere around the 17th most important member of the average.

To put that in perspective, the split will cut Apple's weighting in the Dow from about 10% to just 2.7%, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices.

Not the First AAPL Split

To be sure, this isn't the first time Apple has carved up its stock. Shareholders have been through this four times already, in 1987, 2000, 2005 and 2014.

The difference this time is that Apple wasn't a component of the Dow back then. (It joined in 2015.)

Traditionally, the idea behind a stock split is to attract investors who might balk at a high share price. But splits have become far less common now that brokerages give customers the option of buying fractional shares. Indeed, a few of the most popular blue chips, including (AMZN) and Google parent Alphabet (GOOGL), have four-digit stock prices.

For the record, each Apple shareholder at the close of business on Aug. 24 will receive three additional shares for every share they hold. Trading will begin on a split-adjusted basis on Aug. 31.

Investors should know that the Apple stock split has little bearing on the prospects for AAPL shares, other than making it a little more accessible to small-dollar investors. But it certainly could dim the outlook for the already beleaguered Dow this year.

Dan Burrows
Senior Investing Writer,

Dan Burrows is Kiplinger's senior investing writer, having joined the august publication full time in 2016.

A long-time financial journalist, Dan is a veteran of SmartMoney, MarketWatch, CBS MoneyWatch, InvestorPlace and DailyFinance. He has written for The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Consumer Reports, Senior Executive and Boston magazine, and his stories have appeared in the New York Daily News, the San Jose Mercury News and Investor's Business Daily, among other publications. As a senior writer at AOL's DailyFinance, Dan reported market news from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and hosted a weekly video segment on equities.

Once upon a time – before his days as a financial reporter and assistant financial editor at legendary fashion trade paper Women's Wear Daily – Dan worked for Spy magazine, scribbled away at Time Inc. and contributed to Maxim magazine back when lad mags were a thing. He's also written for Esquire magazine's Dubious Achievements Awards.

In his current role at Kiplinger, Dan writes about equities, fixed income, currencies, commodities, funds, macroeconomics, demographics, real estate, cost of living indexes and more.

Dan holds a bachelor's degree from Oberlin College and a master's degree from Columbia University.

Disclosure: Dan does not trade stocks or other securities. Rather, he dollar-cost averages into cheap funds and index funds and holds them forever in tax-advantaged accounts.