Google, Cisco eyed as possible Dow candidates

NEW YORK Mon Mar 9, 2009 5:15pm EDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Google (GOOG.O) and Cisco (CSCO.O) are viewed as top contenders to enter the Dow Jones industrial average .DJI now that two constituents are trading below $2, making their status as blue chips tenuous.

The Internet companies are among a variety of companies eyed as potential Dow replacements, a diverse list that also includes former investment bank Goldman Sachs (GS.N) and former Dow star US Steel (X.N).

In recent weeks, six stocks on the Dow have tumbled below $10 and on Friday Citigroup (C.N), once the world's most valuable bank, sunk to 97 cents.

Analysts say Citigroup and automaker General Motors (GM.N) are most likely to be replaced. Despite billions in government aid, both trade below $2 and serve as symbols of Wall Street's corporate excess.

The Dow has shed roughly 25 percent of its value in 2009, a drop that has prompted analysts to call for an update of an index that many say has been out-of-date for years.

"I don't have much interaction with Exxon Mobil (XOM.N), but I'm on Google 47 times a day," said Barry Ritholtz, chief market strategist of Fusion IQ in New York. Exxon is one of the 30 stocks listed on the Dow.

"Indirectly that means I'm interfacing with the plumbing of Cisco."

Other candidates include high-profile household names such as the world's largest credit card network, Visa (V.N), or iPod maker, Apple (AAPL.O).

"Some have said that Visa, because of its strong brand name and relatively large market capitalization of almost $42 billion, might be a possible replacement for Citi," said Michael Sheldon, chief market strategist at RDM Financial in Westport, Connecticut.

But there is little consensus about the size and sector of company that should be in the Dow. Paul Nolte, director of investments at Hinsdale Associates, argues that smaller companies like Aflac (AFL.N) or Northern Trust (NTRS.O) "fit into the category of good representation, well-run companies. They're just not high profile."

A materials company might be well-suited to be a part of the Dow rather than another financial stock, said Bucky Hellwig, senior vice president at Morgan Asset Management in Birmingham, Alabama.

Part of the debate stems from confusion about what the index actually represents.

"Does it represent the largest and best companies in the U.S.?" said Nolte, based in Hinsdale Illinois. "If so, I think you can probably argue that a third of the companies should probably go.

"But if you want to say they represent various industries and replicate what is going on in the U.S. economy -- it's doing that under current conditions."

(Additional reporting by Leah Schurr)