France is the second largest economy in the European Union. It is also home to some of the finest companies in the world. For those interested in investing passively in France, let us analyze its 5 most important stock market indices.
Before we can confidently invest in a country, it is very important to understand and analyze its stock market indices. They serve both as a gauge to get a good grip of that country’s stock market as well as to construct passive investment vehicles such as exchange-traded funds.
Although its economy is not as large as Germany’s, France has the largest stock market by market capitalization in both the European Union and the Eurozone. In fact, only the stock market of the United Kingdom exceeds the French one in Europe.
France is home to some of the most famous and established companies in the world. One of their most remarkable assets is the value of their brands, often associated with both France and luxury at the same time. Thus, some of the most famous French corporations are LVMH (Louis Vuitton’s parent company), L’Oréal, Total, Axa, Danone, Airbus and Société Générale.
The French stock market is dominated by the Paris Stock Exchange, operated by Euronext. The indices we will analyze in the sections below are owned and published by either Euronext or MSCI.
The CAC 40 stock market index is the most famous in France. Composed of 40 companies, it was introduced in 1987. Its name comes from the old system used by the Paris Stock Exchange, known as Cotation Assistée en Continu (continuous assisted quotation).
These 40 companies are the most representative, liquidm and large on the French stock exchange, and are weighted by their market capitalization. Hence, larger companies have a greater weight within the index.
However, the index methodology sets a maximum weight of 15% for any single company. This limit is applied quarterly when the index is rebalanced, so a company could be above that 15% threshold between two rebalancing dates.
The CAC 40 is dominated by stocks such as LVMH, L’Oréal, Airbus and Total. As a result, it is a very international stock market index. Many of the largest corporations within the CAC 40 are also present in the Pan-European EuroStoxx 50 Index.
If you want to find out more about the CAC 40, you can use the official link to the Euronext website.
CAC Next 20
The CAC Next 20 is the second-tier stock market index calculated by Euronext. Introduced in 2002, it is made up of the 20 most important companies in France, after the 40 that make up the CAC 40.
As a result, the CAC Next 20 has mid-cap companies. Among them we can find some companies that were once in the CAC 40 but later relegated to the CAC Next 20. Obviously, companies on the risk, aspiring to join the CAC 40 in the future, are also present.
Companies in the CAC Next 20 tend to be more focused on the French domestic economy, so they allow us to bet more directly on the growth of the country.
Just like the CAC 40, this index weights its stocks based on their market capitalization. You will find more information here.
CAC Mid 60
The CAC Mid 60 is France’s third-tier index calculated by Euronext. The CAC Mid 60 includes the 60 most important companies in the country, after those that are part of the CAC 40 and the CAC Next 20.
Introduced in 2005, this index originally included 100 companies. However, important changes were made in 2011, and the number of constituents was reduced to 60.
The CAC Mid 60 has medium and small cap companies. Some of them are quite famous, such as Air France-KLM, Euro Disney (subsidiary of the US Walt Disney corporation), Eurotunnel (operator of the tunnel between France and the United Kingdom) or the marketing company JCDecaux.
You can find more information about the CAC Mid 60 on the official Euronext website.
Another very interesting stock market index for those interested in investing passively in France is the MSCI France. Published by the US company MSCI, this index includes all French companies that are part of the global MSCI World Index.
The exact number of stocks varies over time, depending on how many companies meet the criteria to be part of the index, but it tends to be around 70. For that reason, the MSCI France is pretty similar to taking both the CAC 40 and CAC Next 20 indices together.
Their companies are weighted according to their market capitalization adjusted by free float. Consequently, the index is dominated by companies such as LVMH, Total, Sanofi and L’Oréal.
Additional details can be found on MSCI’s website.
MSCI France Small Cap
Finally, we also have the MSCI France Small Cap index. It is made up of small and mid-cap companies that are not part of the more important MSCI France.
This index has many similarities with the CAC Mid 60. One little difference, however, is the number of stocks in it, which fluctuates over time. On average we will find 80 companies in the index.
Interestingly, one of the members of the MSCI France Small Cap index is Euronext, the company in charge of the Paris Stock Exchange and owner of the CAC stock indices.
Due to the smaller size of its companies, the MSCI France Small Cap allows us to invest in businesses that are more directly exposed to the French economy, i.e. less internationalized. This can boost the diversification of our portfolio if we already have investments in other countries.
Additional details can be found here.
There are multiple stock market indices that allow us to invest in France passively. It is only a matter of finding an ETF or index fund that tracks the index in which we are interested.
Additionally, having a good understanding about a country’s stock indices allows us to analyze that market historically, which might make it possible to time when to get in and out. Although remember that there is no guarantee that something that happened in the past will happen again in the future.
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And if you want to learn about the stock market indices of Europe’s largest economy, take a look at this post:
The 5 Most Important German Stock Market Indices