Eq: Small Caps
Small cap prices usually expand and contract more quickly than large caps do. This happens both in downturns and upswings. However, in this coronavirus rally, that has not held up, as small caps are faltering while their larger peers soar. For instance, the Russell 2000 is trailing the Russell 1000 so far this year. “This latest rally is very much a capitalization story — the big players were the ones that held their own”, says SEI investments. Another portfolio manager added “The secular growth force that comes from mega-cap tech stocks doesn’t appear to be replicable in the rest of the market”.
FINSUM: Small caps tend to lack the scale that would allow them to thrive even as the economy falls, which means there haven’t been as many winners as there were in large caps.
All the market focus has been on the Dow, but small caps beat the bigger index into a bear market. Even before the big falls of the last few days, the Russell was down 25%. Small companies account for about half of US economic activity and tend to feel the strongest effects when the economy falls, explaining the sharp decline. However, small caps also tend to outperform in the three months after such falls, as they also disproportionately benefit from an economic recovery.
FINSUM: Small caps were trading at all time highs right before this plunge, and as this situation begins to clear, it seems like a very good buying opportunity.
If you think the economy is going to keep humming along, then buy small caps, as they look set to gain the most from that scenario, at least according to Leuthold group. Small caps look likely to benefit disproportionately from the rising inflation and higher appetite for risky assets that accompany a strong economy. That said, small caps have lagged large caps for the last decade, so there is some reason to be skeptical about this call. Accordingly, “If 2020 should prove difficult for earnings growth, we would expect large-caps to maintain their earnings growth superiority”.
FINSUM: We can see the economy continuing to roll, but we have a harder time seeing inflation jumping up. We think the status quo will continue.
Small cap stocks are starting to have their day in the sun. The Russell 200 has started to catch up to large cap indexes this autumn, and some stocks look ready to surge. The index is now up 21.2% for the year, just a few points behind the S&P 500’s 25.5%. According to Merrill Lynch, economic recoveries “tend to be the best phase for small-caps …That’s one key reason we think we could be poised for a shift from large to small”. According to a Jefferies analyst, “I think small is primed to outperform as the economy and earnings improve in 2020 … That’s going to be the whole ballgame”.
FINSUM: It is hard to imagine the US is going to enter an “economic recovery phase” at the end of a ten-year bull run, but the market’s perception of the current economy is exactly that, so these forecasts might be spot on.
Any small cap investor can tell you that the end of the year is not usually a good time. Small caps historically suffer in November and December compared to the rest of the year. However, 2019 looks to be shaping up differently according to the Wall Street Journal. The reason small caps are usually weak at the end of the year is that managers sell off their holdings and mirror the market at the year-end as a way of insulating their annual bonus (which is based on outperformance). However, in years where overall stock performance has been strong, this pattern is less obvious. So, given 2019’s strong gains, it seems like small caps probably won’t suffer so much.
FINSUM: This is by no means a guarantee, but it certainly seems like a more positive structural consideration.
A lot of demographers think there is going to be a coming baby boom, as Millennials finally have children. There is some disagreement over this as many think the boom is already a bust, but the reality is that there is likely to be a lot of babies born the next few years as Millennials make a last push to have children. The parents are likely to be older, which means more disposable income, and more spending. Therefore, buying into baby-oriented stocks seems like a good idea. Take a look at Carter’s, Bed Bath & Beyond (which has a baby unit), and Children’s Place.
FINSUM: We think there will be a baby rush over the next five years as Millennials try to have kids before aging out. That presents an opportunity for the baby sector.