Published June 10, 2013
Are investors losing faith in small-cap stocks? A look at some of the major ETFs that track small market capitalization fare reveals some interesting clues.
For example, the iShares Russell 2000 Index Fund (IWM), the largest small-cap ETF by assets, has lost one percent since May 20. On the other hand, the ETF saw inflows of nearly $988 million last week alone.
Granted, it is just one week, but $988 million in new assets in a week's time is a stellar run for any ETF. In the case of IWM, it could be a sign that investors are expecting stocks to avoid the usual summer doldrums and keep rising over the next several months.
If small-caps renew their status as a leadership or merely perform inline with an up-trending broader market, investors may want to consider the following ETFs as alternatives or complements to IWM.
Vanguard S&P Small-Cap 600 Growth ETF (VIOG) When it comes to Vanguard small-cap funds, it is the Vanguard Small-Cap ETF (VB) that most investors are familiar. Like IWM, VB focuses on a wide range of small-caps. The unheralded VIOG focuses explicitly on growth stocks. Obviously, that means growth stocks need to be in favor for VIOG to outperform the likes of IWM and VB.
This year, VIOG has slightly lagged VB, but there is potential for second-half upside with the former. VIOG devotes a combined 61 percent of its weight to the technology, financial services and consumer discretionary sectors, implying this ETF is ideally situated to take advantage of a legitimate cyclical rotation. Cost-conscious investors will enjoy the fact that VIOG charges just 0.2 percent per year, making the ETF less expensive than 86 percent of comparable funds, according to Vanguard.
PowerShares FTSE RAFI US 1500 Small-Mid Portfolio (PRFZ) The PowerShares FTSE RAFI US 1500 Small-Mid Portfolio is a mixture of small- and mid-cap firms, although the average market value of the ETF's 1,488 holdings is firmly in small-cap territory at nearly $1.6 billion. Still, the mid-cap exposure is useful for at least on thing with PRFZ: The ETF has been slightly less volatile than IWM this year.
PRFZ is a fundamentally-weighted ETF, a methodology that has been validated by other ETFs across various cap weightings and investment themes. PRFZ's constituents are selected based on book value, cash flow, sales and dividends. This year, that methodology has made a difference as PRFZ has outpaced IWM by about 170 basis points.
Like VIOG, PRFZ is heavy on financials, consumer discretionary and tech names as those sectors combine for about 57 percent of the ETF's weight. Assets under management: $601.1 million. Fees: 0.39 percent per year.
WisdomTree SmallCap Dividend Fund (DES) Small-caps are not always the first place income investors go searching for dividends, but the WisdomTree SmallCap Dividend Fund does offer a viable way of getting compensated for embracing small stocks.
The 11.25 percent weight to utilities in an environment where interest rates appear poised to rise is concerning, but only on the surface. That utilities exposure is more than tempered by the weights DES devotes to higher-beta sectors. Financials, discretionary and industrials comprise over 57 percent of this ETF's weight.
Again, it is about the dividends with DES. The ETF delivers a monthly payout and its current 30-day SEC yield of 3.03 percent is more than double that of IWM.
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