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S&P 500 vs MSCI World: Key Differences and Performance Data (2024)

Updated on Jun 4, 2024
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Indexes such as the S&P 500 and MSCI track the performance of a specific group of stocks or financial assets. They essentially serve as benchmarks to gauge the market’s performance or specific sectors.

Both seem good candidates for long-term investing given their global exposure, but which one is better? Are they even comparable?

In this article, we’ll explore the differences between the S&P 500 and the MSCI World so that you can make a better-informed decision about which index to invest in. We will cover performance, country exposure, sector exposure, the availability of ETFs, and more!

MSCI World vs S&P 500 compared in a nutshell

Our team has compiled all the information discussed throughout the article into a table, so that it can be easier for you to observe the differences and make a decision.

Index MSCI World S&P 500
Number of holdings 1,465 503
Top 5 Countries US, Japan, UK, France and Canada US only
Top 5 Sectors Information Technology, Health care, Financials, Consumer Discretionary and Industrials Information Technology, Health care, Consumer Discretionary, Financials, Communication Services
Availability of ETFs Limited Broader

What are the S&P 500 and the MSCI World indices?

The Standard & Poor’s 500, known as the S&P 500, is one of the primary indices in the United States. It comprises 503 large, established U.S. companies listed on the U.S. stock exchange, representing various sectors of the economy (Technology, Health Care, and so on). It also provides globally diversified growth through large US-based multinational companies.

The MSCI World Index tracks the performance of large and mid-cap company stocks in 23 developed markets worldwide, and it covers around 85% of the listed equities in each country.

Country diversification

The MSCI World Index includes large and mid-cap stocks from 23 developed countries, resulting in stocks from various countries being listed on different exchanges.

Country Weight
United States 70.89%
Japan 6.13%
United Kingdom 3.79%
France 3.16%
Canada 3.06%
Others 12.97%

Note: The weights listed in the table refer to Mar 29, 2024.

On the contrary, the S&P 500 exclusively focuses on large-cap US equities listed on US exchanges.

Given that, do you think a US-based company listed in the NASDAQ or NYSE has 100% US-country risk?

Around 40% of the revenues of the S&P 500 companies came from countries outside of the USA, which means that assessing the company’s country revenues (and, consequently, currency exposure) will help you better understand the actual country risks of the business, more about it in our article about understanding your country/currency exposure.

Sector diversification

Both indices focus on the same sectors of activity, with Information Technology standing out prominently in both cases. Generally speaking, all other categories have a similar percentage incidence in both indices.

Sector (weights) MSCI World S&P 500
Information Technology 23.68% 29.20%
Financials 15.36% 13.1%
Health Care 11.99% 12.30%
Consumer Discretionary 11.22% 10.30%
Industrials 10.73% 9.10%
Communication Services 7.44% 8.80%
Consumer Staples 6.52% 6.20%
Energy 4.46% 4.10%
Materials 3.90% 2.40%
Utilities 2.43% 2.30%
Real Estate 2.27% 2.20%

Note: The weights listed in the table refer to March 29, 2024.

Number of holdings

While the MSCI World Index boasts a diverse range of 1,465 constituents, the S&P 500 falls short with only 503 holdings. It may seem odd that the S&P 500 does not have exactly 500 stocks. However, our team has brought you one of the reasons behind this discrepancy. This is because there are companies in the S&P 500 that have multiple classes of shares, accounting for the additional stocks.

Top 10 holdings

Our team has gathered the top 10 holdings of each index, so the table confirms that they are pretty similar. However, each stock’s weights in the respective index differ.

S&P 500 MSCI World
Stocks Weights Stocks Weights
Microsoft Corp 7.04% Microsoft Corp 4.57%
Apple Inc 5.60% Apple Inc 3.88%
Nvidia Corp 5.02% Nvidia Corp 3.44%
Amazon.com Inc 3.71% Amazon.com Inc 2.58%
Meta Platforms Inc Class A 2.40% Meta Platforms Inc Class A 1.66%
Alphabet Inc Cl A 2.00% Alphabet Inc Cl A 1.37%
Berkshire Hathaway Inc Cl B 1.72% Alphabet Inc Cl C 1.21%
Alphabet Inc Cl C 1.69% Eli Lilly, Co 0.97%
Eli Lilly, Co 1.40% Broadcom 0.91%
Broadcom 1.31% JP Morgan Chase 0.89%

Note: The weights listed in the table refer to March 29, 2023.

A pattern observed in the top 10 holdings is that the companies tend to be from the United States, so although the MSCI World is more geographically diversified, it still carries a significant relative weight (approximately 70%).

Performance

The chosen ETFs to measure the performance of each index are the iShares Core S&P 500 UCITS ETF (CSPX)  and the iShares Core MSCI World UCITS ETF USD (SWDA).

Our team has collected the historical performances of these two ETFs since 2012 to showcase the performance of each index. When comparing the performance of both indices, it is evident that the S&P 500 outperforms the MSCI World Index. 

In green, it is possible to observe the evolution of the iShares Core S&P 500 UCITS ETF (CSPX), while in blue, it is possible to observe the trend of the iShares Core MSCI World UCITS ETF USD (SWDA).

Yahoo Finance

Nevertheless, it is crucial to recognize that past performance is not indicative of future returns, and these results may not persist indefinitely.

Is the MSCI World better than the S&P 500?

As you might suspect, there is no “better” index. It all comes down to your preferences and goals. The main difference is that the S&P 500 only includes US-based companies, whereas the MSCI World Index includes companies from 23 developed countries.

From the global financial crisis of 2007-09, the S&P 500 has outperformed the MSCI World Index. Still, there have been periods where it was the other way around.

It all depends on your perspective concerning the companies’ evolution in each index. Since all have a global presence, the correlation between the S&P 500 and the MSCI World Index will be pretty high. So, investing in both does not give proper diversification benefits.

Availability of ETFs

As you may already know, you cannot directly purchase an index. You need to buy a fund that tracks that index. Two types of funds that can track an index include exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and index funds.

S&P 500

The S&P 500 is such a renowned index that it is traded worldwide, leading to an almost endless supply of ETFs replicating it. Therefore, our team has gathered a selection to showcase in this article.

Name ISIN Ticker* Annual fee (TER) Replication method Use of income
iShares Core S&P 500 UCITS ETF IE00B5BMR087 CSSPX 0.07% Physical Accumulating
Vanguard S&P 500 UCITS ETF IE00B3XXRP09 VUSA 0.07% Physical Distributing
Invesco S&P 500 UCITS ETF IE00B3YCGJ38 SPXS 0.09% Synthetic Accumulating
Xtrackers S&P 500 Swap UCITS ETF LU0490618542 XSPX 0.15% Synthetic Accumulating
SPDR® S&P® 500 UCITS ETF IE00B6YX5C33 SPY5 0.09% Physical Distribution

*All the tickers presented refer to the Italian stock exchange. However, the same ETFs can be found on other European exchanges with different tickers.

MSCI World

The availability of ETFs tracking the MSCI World Index is limited, with fewer exchanges offering such options. Investing in the MSCI World Index presents a restricted range of choices, primarily centred around ETFs listed on the Euronext Amsterdam, XETRA and Borsa Italiana.

Name ISIN Ticker* Annual fee (TER) Replication method Use of income
iShares Core MSCI World UCITS ETF USD IE00B4L5Y983 SWDA 0.20% Physical Accumulating
iShares MSCI World UCITS ETF (Dist) IE00B0M62Q58 IWRD 0.50% Physical Distributing
Invesco MSCI World UCITS ETF IE00B60SX394 SMSWLD 0.19% Synthetic Accumulating
HSBC MSCI World UCITS ETF USD IE00B4X9L533 HMWD 0.15% Physical Distributing
HSBC MSCI World UCITS ETF USD (Acc) IE000UQND7H4 HMWA 0.15% Physical Accumulating

*All the tickers presented refer to the Italian stock exchange. However, the same ETFs can be found on other European exchanges with different tickers.

Cheapest Brokers to Invest in ETFs

Now that you’re familiar with the differences between the two ETFs and have decided, it’s time to choose the best broker to move forward with your investment. That’s why Investing in the Web collected all this information, evaluated the most important features of different European ETF brokers, and compiled a list of the 4 ETF brokers in Europe.

Without further delay, here are four ETF brokers in Europe and why you should consider them:

  1. eToro: Best for social trading and commission-free investing
  2. Interactive Brokers: Best for the largest ETF offering
  3. DEGIRO: Best for low-cost ETF trading
  4. Trading 212: Best for commission-free stock and ETF trading

Disclaimer: eToro is a multi-asset investment platform. The value of your investments may go up or down. Your capital is at risk. Other fees apply. For more information, visit etoro.com/trading/fees.

Broker ETF fees Minimum Deposit Number of ETFs Regulators
eToro $0 (other fees apply) $50 (varies between countries) 260+ FCA, CySEC, ASIC
Interactive Brokers Varies by exchange with tiered Pricing: 0.05% of Trade Value (min: €1.25, max: €29.00) €/$/£0 13,000+ FINRA, SIPC, SEC, CFTC, IIROC, FCA, CBI, AFSL, SFC, SEBI, MAS, MNB
DEGIRO €/£0 (in some ETFs, + a €/£1 handling fee), plus an annual €/£2.50 connectivity fee €/£1 200+ DNB and AFM
Trading 212 €/£0 €/£0 600+ FCA and FSC

Conclusion

By investing in the MSCI World index, you can benefit from broader global diversification across various geographies (and sectors). As such, this index gives you direct exposure to international markets beyond the US, contrary to the S&P 500. With a larger number of companies in its index, it offers you the opportunity to diversify your investments further.

Additionally, you can choose from multiple exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that track the performance of the S&P 500 and MSCI World indices.

In summary, if you’re looking to expand your investment horizons, the MSCI World index provides a more comprehensive global perspective compared to the US-focused S&P 500, offering you the potential for enhanced diversification in your portfolio.

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About the author
Minho Investment Association
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The Minho Investment Association (MIA) is a junior initiative from the University of Minho (Portugal), which aims to promote financial literacy among young people.

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