The table below lists the current and historical debt-to-equity ratios by GICS sector, calculated using the 500 largest U.S. companies. At the moment, Financials, Consumer Discretionary and Industrials companies have the highest debt-to-equity ratios. However, the gearing ratios of different sectors should not be directly compared with each other as different industries tend to either require or prefer more debt financing than others. Especially financial institutions are operating with much higher D/E ratios than other types of companies.
Debt-to-Equity by GICS Sector (Large Cap U.S. Companies)
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How the debt ratios have been calculated?
The debt-to-equity ratios by GICS sector have been calculated by dividing the sum of total liabilities of all S&P 500 companies representing a certain sector with the sum of total shareholder equity of these companies. Another way to calculate debt-to-equity ratios by sector would be to take the median value of the individual debt-to-equity ratios of the companies part of a certain sector.
Total liabilities have been used as the “debt” when the ratios have been calculated. Alternative would be to use only long-term debt instead of total liabilities as the liabilities of a company typically include various other types of obligations than just debt.
When calculating historical gearing ratios, you also need to take account that the companies part of the S&P 500 index keep changing which means that the ratios calculated for different historical dates are calculated using different companies.