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Dow Jones Industrial Average to drop General Electric

Dow Jones Industrial Average to drop General Electric

Conglomerate born in Schenectady in 1892 was last original member of the blue-chip stock index
Dow Jones Industrial Average to drop General Electric
The iconic GE sign in Schenectady is shown on a foggy night in late 2016.
Photographer: John Cropley/Gazette Business Editor

And then there were none.

General Electric, the last original member of the Dow Jones industrial average, was dropped from the blue-chip index late Tuesday and replaced by the Walgreens Boots Alliance drugstore chain.

The decision is a fresh blow to General Electric, which has stumbled badly in recent years. Last fall, John L. Flannery, the company’s new chief executive, warned that the power-generation unit was reeling. GE cut its dividend for only the second time since the Great Depression. In January, GE surprised investors by taking a big charge and setting aside $15 billion over seven years to pay for obligations held by GE Capital, the company’s financial services unit, mainly on long-term care insurance policies.

Over the past year, GE’s shares have fallen 55 percent, compared with a 15 percent gain for the Dow. GE, which closed Tuesday at $12.95, has the lowest share price of any of the index’s 30 components.

S&P Dow Jones Indices — which owns the Dow — suggested that the slide in GE’s stock price contributed to the decision to remove the company from the index, where it had been a member continuously since 1907. The Dow is a price-weighted index, which means higher priced stocks have a greater influence on its direction.

“The low price of GE shares means the company has a weight in the index of less than one-half of 1 percentage point,” said David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “Walgreens Boots Alliance’s share price is higher, and it will contribute more meaningfully to the index.”

The move also is freighted with economic symbolism. With the inclusion of Walgreens Boots, the index “will be more representative of the consumer and health care sectors of the U.S. economy,” Blitzer said.

The removal of GE, which will formally occur June 26, reflects a shift in the economic composition of the United States, which long ago tilted away from heavy industry and toward services, such as technology, finance and health care.

It also amounted to a milestone for General Electric. It was the last remaining original member of the index, when the stock market measure was introduced in 1896.

Back then, just a few years after the company was formed through a merger of Thomas Edison’s electric companies with a rival, GE was the modern-day equivalent of a technology stock, and the Dow itself was geared heavily toward the growth industries of the day such as railroads. In the more than 120 years that followed, the company was often at the center of U.S. capitalism. And as recently as the 1990s, GE was at times the most-valuable American company by market value.

After GE’s departure, the company with the longest presence in the Dow will be Exxon Mobil, whose corporate predecessor, Standard Oil of New Jersey, joined the Dow in 1928, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices.

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