The Wilshire 5000 is the broadest index in the United States covering every stock that is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, NASDAQ and the NYSE AMEX.  When the Index was launched back in 1974, the index included about 5000 stocks, hence the name.  The Wilshire 5000 was never limited to 5000 stocks, but includes every stock listed on the three exchanges regardless of the total number of companies.

Wilshire also created the Wilshire 4500, which includes all of the stocks that are listed on the three U.S. exchanges excluding the stocks in the S&P 500 as well as the Wilshire 2500, which includes the 2500 largest companies.   Wilshire’s Large Cap Index includes the top 750 stocks by capitalization while the Small Cap Index includes the 1750 stocks after the first 750. The Micro-Cap Index includes all stocks included in the Wilshire 5000 that are not included in the Wilshire 2500.


Growth in the Wilshire 5000

As the stock market boomed in the 1990s, the Wilshire 5000 grew in size and reached its maximum membership on July 31, 1998 when 7,562 companies were included in the index.  Thence, membership has shrunk, declining back to 5000 on December 29, 2005. Since then, the Wilshire 5000 has included less than 5000 companies.

The Wilshire 5000 Full Cap Index calculates the value of all of the shares listed in the United States in billions of dollars.  The index was at 28,552.5 on February 15, 2019 meaning that the value of all the common stocks listed in the United States was $28,552.5 billion. The index reached $30 trillion in September 2018 before the current sell off.  The index has data going back to December 1970 when the total capitalization of the US Stock market was $830 billion, though this sank to a low of $550 billion in September 1974. GFD has used its own calculations of all the stocks listed in the United States to extend the Wilshire 5000 back to 1792.

So to answer the question, how many stocks are in the Wilshire 5000? On June 30, 2018, there were 3,486 companies.  This means that the number of companies that are included in the Wilshire 5000 has shrunk by 54% Since July 1998.  Figure 1 illustrates the performance of the Wilshire 5000 since 1970.  The index showed strong growth between 1975 and 1999, but slower growth since then.




Large Caps vs. Small Caps

It is also instructive to compare the performance of the S&P 500 Total Return Index with the Wilshire 5000 Total Market Index, since both are total return indices.  This comparison provides us with the best comparison of the performance of large cap and small cap stocks that is available. If the S&P 500 stocks (large caps) outperform the rest of the market, then the relative index rises, if the rest of the stocks (small caps) outperform, it falls.  As Figure 2. Illustrates, the S&P 500 peaked relative to the rest of the market in 1975, declined until 1983, then began a stead rise relative to the rest of the market until 2001.  Between 2001 and 2014, small caps outperformed the S&P 500, but during the past 5 years, the S&P 500 has been gaining strength relative to the rest of the market.




The Wilshire/Russell 3000?

The number of stocks that are listed in the United States continues to decline. Because of the regulatory cost of listing on public exchanges, and the willingness of venture capitalists to invest in private companies, fewer and fewer companies are going public, and the number of publicly-traded companies is declining.  The Russell 3000 may soon face the fate of the Wilshire 5000, being forced to include fewer companies than its name suggests.  At some point in the near future, there may be fewer than 3000 companies listed in the United States and at that point, the Wilshire 5000 and the Russell 3000 will include the same number of companies.  When that happens, we will let you know.