Displaying items by tag: russell 2000
Small caps have had a great run since the market’s bottom in March. The IWM ETF, which is the market’s effective benchmark for small cap performance has had an astonishing year. Since October alone IWM has returned 35%. If you look since the beginning of March, the return is over 100%. Many would be okay with earning that in almost a decade! With that in mind, some contend that it is time to take profits as the asset class is priced for perfection.
FINSUM: This is an interesting and classic debate. If performance is so stellar, should you take the victory and get out, or stick with your winner? If momentum investing has taught us anything in the last half decade, it is to stick with winners. Looking more fundamentally, small caps have historically outperformed when the economy is growing, so there should be some tailwind.
Small caps are looking strong, and seem likely to outperform large caps over the next year. Small caps have seen two decidedly positive trends over the last month—an outperformance relative to the S&P 500, and increasing breadth. From a technical perspective, those are both encouraging. On the fundamental front, small caps are starting to follow a well-trodden path to success. Historically, every period since 1990 in which the Russell 2000 has outperformed the S&P 500, spreads have been widening. Bond watchers will have noticed that Treasuries have risen 28-40 bp recently across different maturities. Since that rise in yields seems likely to continue because of the growing debt needs of the US government, small caps may be in for a good run.
FINSUM: We really like this logic. Small caps tend to have a higher beta to GDP, so rising yields (hopefully indicating a better economic environment) should create additional spread widening, and thus be positive and create some continued outperformance.
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.
Small caps are having a great year so far, but there are increasing worries that the good times might not last. The Russell 2000 is outperforming the S&P 500 by 3% (13% vs 10%) this year, but has tumbled in recent days, a troubling sign. What could be driving the losses is that the big gains in price have not corresponding to improving fundamentals. For instance, small cap performance is very tied to purchasing managers index data (PMI), but the rise in price has not been tied to changes in the PMI. Additionally, small cap companies tend to have the most floating rate debt, which puts them at a higher risk of rising rates. They also tend to have much lower credit quality, meaning they are the most susceptible to shifting rates. More than half the debt issued by small companies is rated as junk.
FINSUM: There is no reason to think the bottom is going to fall out here. However, a sense check seems necessary for small cap investors as there are significant risks.
Here is potentially good news for investors—the market’s start to this year has been the best since 1987. Both the S&P and Russell have risen considerably in the first 12 sessions of the year, with the former jumping 8.8%. The best start since ’87 sounds good, except that 1987 rivals 2008 as having the worst reputation with investors (shares fell almost 23% in a single day in October 1987). Analysts are urging caution, especially on small caps, as the gains don’t seem sustainable given the huge buildup in leverage that has occurred in small companies over the last few years.
FINSUM: The parallel to 1987 is completely irrelevant, as it is really only based on the percentage gain over 12 sessions.