3 reasons for the small-cap boom

U.S. small-cap stocks have surged this year, hitting new highs in June 2018. The benchmark S&P Small Cap 600 Index has gained around 11% in 2018, out-performing the large cap S&P 500 by more than 5% during this period (Chart 1).

chart 1

Several key factors have contributed to the small-cap rally this year:

1. Fiscal policy, namely tax reform

Small-cap companies tend to source a larger portion of their revenue domestically compared to large caps. As such, they pay an estimated corporate tax rate of around 32% vs. 28% for larger firms.[1] Recent tax cuts passed by Congress therefore benefit smaller companies more than larger ones–a trend that has contributed to out-performance at the sector level within small caps, especially amongst tax-heavy sectors such as financials and telecoms (Chart 2).Chart 2

Mergers and acquisition activity has also driven small-cap performance (Chart 3).

chart 3

2. Solid domestic economic growth

U.S. small caps are nearly twice as sensitive to changes in domestic economic growth as large caps, and much less sensitive to international economies.[2] This relative domestic preference has helped U.S. small caps as economic data have remained robust while European data have weakened substantially.

3. Dollar strengthening

Small-cap companies on average are less exposed to foreign markets and currency fluctuations than larger companies. The U.S. dollar has rallied more than 5% against a basket of foreign currencies since April. [3] This has led to relative foreign currency weakness that has eroded large-cap companies’ overseas profits, resulting in lower earnings and equity valuations. In contrast, small companies enjoyed lower input costs for imported raw materials due as the U.S. dollar has strengthened.

ETP flow data suggests that investors are coming around to the small-cap story. Flows into U.S. listed ETP products with exposure to U.S. small-cap shares have more than doubled from less than $2 billion in March to $5 billion month to date in June. [4]

Still, there are a number of risks when it comes to small caps. Historically, small-cap stocks have outpaced large-cap stocks during the initial expansionary phase of an economy cycle, helped by their high sensitivity to rebounding economic growth and low interest rates. However, small caps tend to under-perform large caps in recessions as growth reverses and financing condition tighten, especially given higher debt leverage levels.

 chart 4

While we don’t see a recession on the horizon in the next few months, we do believe we are in the later stages of the expansion. As such, the days of the small-cap boom may be numbered.

Chris Dhanraj is the Head of the ETF Investment Strategy team in iShares and a regular contributor to The Blog. Mark Alberici contributed to this blog.

Featured funds

Small cap

IWM – iShares Russell 2000 ETF

IJR – iShares Core S&P Small-Cap ETF

JKJ – iShares Morningstar Small-Cap ETF

SMMD – iShares Russell 2500 ETF

Mid cap

IWR – iShares Russell Mid-Cap ETF

JKG – iShares Morningstar Mid-Cap ETF

Large cap

IWB – iShares Russell 1000 ETF

IWL – iShares Russell Top 200 ETF

IYY – iShares Dow Jones U.S. ETF

JKD – iShares Morningstar Large-Cap ETF

OEF – iShares S&P 100 ETF

Carefully consider the Funds’ investment objectives, risk factors, and charges and expenses before investing. This and other information can be found in the Funds’ prospectuses or, if available, the summary prospectuses which may be obtained by visiting http://www.iShares.com or http://www.blackrock.com. Read the prospectus carefully before investing.

Investing involves risk, including possible loss of principal.

Small-capitalization companies may be less stable and more susceptible to adverse developments, and their securities may be more volatile and less liquid than larger capitalization companies.

Shares of iShares ETFs may be bought and sold throughout the day on the exchange through any brokerage account.  Shares are not individually redeemable from the ETF, however, shares may be redeemed directly from an ETF by Authorized Participants, in very large creation/redemption units. There can be no assurance that an active trading market for shares of an ETF will develop or be maintained. Buying and selling shares of ETFs will result in brokerage commissions.

This material is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. The opinions expressed are as of the date indicated and may change as subsequent conditions vary. The information and opinions contained in this post are derived from proprietary and non-proprietary sources deemed by BlackRock to be reliable, are not necessarily all-inclusive and are not guaranteed as to accuracy. As such, no warranty of accuracy or reliability is given and no responsibility arising in any other way for errors and omissions (including responsibility to any person by reason of negligence) is accepted by BlackRock, its officers, employees or agents. This post may contain “forward-looking” information that is not purely historical in nature. Such information may include, among other things, projections and forecasts. There is no guarantee that any of these views will come to pass. Reliance upon information in this post is at the sole discretion of the reader.

The strategies discussed are strictly for illustrative and educational purposes and are not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. There is no guarantee that any strategies discussed will be effective. The information presented does not take into consideration commissions, tax implications, or other transactions costs, which may significantly affect the economic consequences of a given strategy or investment decision.

This post contains general information only and does not take into account an individual’s financial circumstances. This information should not be relied upon as a primary basis for an investment decision. Rather, an assessment should be made as to whether the information is appropriate in individual circumstances and consideration should be given to talking to a financial advisor before making an investment decision.

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Source: https://www.blackrockblog.com/2018/07/12/reasons-small-cap-boom/

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