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You could have turned $1,000 into trillions by perfectly trading the S&P 500 in 2015

  • David Yanofsky
By David Yanofsky

Editor of code, visuals, and data

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

How much money could you make by perfectly buying and selling S&P 500 stocks daily? In 2013, it was $264 billion. In 2014, it was 179 billion.

This year, it’s $5.79 trillion.

To do it, you’d have to invest entirely in just one stock every day, and that stock would have to be the largest gainer of the S&P 500 on that day.

The likelihood of making the best trades every day from Jan. 1 to Christmas is almost too slight to comprehend. Even if picking the best performing S&P 500 stock of the day could be done with an unlikely 90% accuracy, picking correctly on each of 248 trading days would still statistically only happen once in every 223 billion attempts.

Nonetheless, if you had done it in 2015, you would have been a millionaire within four months off a $1,000 investment and a billionaire within eight months. By now you’d be the world’s first and only trillionaire—having collected more money through trading than the US government collected in all forms of revenue this year.

Here’s how it would have happened:

You would have traded 150 different companies, most commonly First Solar and Consol Energy.

Of course, putting aside the improbability of perfect stock picking, it would quickly have become logistically impossible to put all of your money into one stock without affecting the stock’s price. Before long, you probably would have found that there were not enough shares to buy, or that you had purchased an entire company—a situation that Quartz ignored for this analysis. Since it’s all fantasy anyway, we did not include trading fees nor changes in the composition of the S&P, and assumed that investment in fractional shares was allowed by all companies.

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