The Stock Market’s Winner-Take-All Phenomenon

In a recent article for Bloomberg, columnist Barry Ritholtz argues that the winner-take-all phenomenon that applies to sports stars, actors and hedge fund managers also applies to the stock market.

“Those at the top,” writes Ritholtz, “reap fabulous rewards while everyone else scrapes by.” He cites a new study on equity gains distributions that shows just 1.3% of the world’s public companies account for all the market gains during the past three decades and that, outside the U.S., less than 1% of all equities drive the rise in share prices.

Active stock pickers who read the study, Ritholtz argues, “might find themselves turned into indexers as a result of what they see.”

The research involved analysis of 62,000 global common stocks from 1990 to 2018, ranking them on a compounded, total-return basis. Of the group, only five companies (Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Alphabet and Exxon Mobil) accounted for 8.3% of global net wealth creation. Ritholz writes, “It is hard to imagine a greater example of the winner-take-all distribution—these five companies account for just 0.008% of the total sample set of 62,000 publicly traded companies.”