Chalk up another one for the B2B stocks.
Deciding that the time is ripe for yet another index tracking Internet stocks,
Morgan Stanley Dean Witter
Friday introduced the
Morgan Stanley Internet Index
. The measure won't track just any Net stocks, though: The big brokerage firm emphasizes that its 28-stock index will be "unique" in its inclusion of B2B names, particularly B2B commerce stocks such as
B2B has been the hottest area of the market in recent months. Shares in outfits such as
, another component of the index, and
have surged on the notion that the Internet will remake the way business is done throughout the economy.
And with Morgan's strong sales force, its indices' benchmark status for U.S. investors and the name recognition of analyst Mary Meeker, the index may well become the gold standard among Net measures. Still, with the field as crowded as it is, Morgan's late start means it risks being lost in the noise, say observers.
Even though the Internet sector is relatively young, the Morgan index will join a number of more established indices when it begins trading next month on the
American Stock Exchange
The Inter@ctive Week Internet Index
Goldman Sachs Internet Index
TheStreet.com Internet Sector
index are among the most widely quoted Net indices. (
, publisher of this Web site, doesn't benefit financially from trading in the DOT, as its index is known.) The
Chicago Board Options Exchange
trades options on its own Internet index and the
Dow Jones Internet Commerce Index
, while the
Kansas City Board of Trade
handles futures and options on the
Internet.com Stock Index
The new Morgan Stanley index will comprise 28 high market-capitalization Internet stocks drawn from nine Net subsectors: infrastructure services, infrastructure, consulting/services, portals, vertical portals, commerce, Internet/B2B software, B2B commerce and multisector Net companies. Morgan Stanley said the number and types of companies in the MOX will change as Net-related businesses evolve.
Ringing Off the Hook
Bill Miller, vice president and product manager in the equity derivatives group at Morgan, says his phone "has not stopped ringing" since the news came out. He says with the index tracking all nine subsectors of the industry, Morgan's measure will provide something no other index can offer.
"From our perspective, the retail and institutional market have demanded a product defined by a tradeable index that truly represents the Internet space," Miller says. "We feel it is a better index."
And an options trader noted that the market currently isn't dominated by any one index, providing an opportunity for the Morgan index. According to trading data from the
Options News Network
, 154 contracts traded in the IIX on Wednesday, while none of the Goldman options traded and TheStreet.com index traded 886 contracts. Morgan also expects an exchange-traded fund, via
, will track the new index.
The Question of Overlap
But Michael Schwartz, chief options strategist with
CIBC World Markets
, questions whether there's room for another Internet index. He says there are already too many products battling for quote space on vendors' systems: "How many more of these things do we need?"
And a technical analyst who follows these indices says Morgan is most likely too late to the game to be much of a factor. Dick Dickson, technical analyst with
Scott & Stringfellow
, says he would use the Morgan index for his analysis only if it's "materially different" from the other indices.
You also could make a case that Morgan was just looking to give a little more business to the companies it has done business with. Of the 28 companies on the list, Morgan has recent underwriting relationships with 21. The only ones it has never underwritten are
, VerticalNet and
Internet Capital Group
In any case, the index reminds investors once more that B2B is where the action is. Or hadn't you forgotten?