Last August, the Russell 2000 hit an all-time high. Since then, it has been mostly downhill. However, in May, the index has shown a little life, suggesting small-cap stocks are about to make a comeback. If that’s the case, you’re going to want to buy these seven small-cap ETFs.
Not convinced? Let me provide you with a little evidence.
“Based on the historic ratio between price-to-earnings on the small cap index versus large cap, we’ve moved beyond neutral, and small-caps are now cheaper than the historic average,” Craig Callahan, president of Icon Investments told MarketWatch in early May. “While not at extreme levels, it is pointing toward a place where small-caps can be a future leader.”
According to a small-cap strategist with Jefferies, the Russell 2000 trailed the S&P 500 in the two months by 5.7% in the two months between Feb. 22 and April 22.
As stocks go, small-caps are looking far more attractive than large caps at this point, not the least of which is the argument that small caps have far less exposure to the trade war, selling and producing much of their goods right here in the U.S.
Not to mention, it always makes sense to have a diversified portfolio of stocks across all market caps to benefit from different stages of an economic cycle. Small-cap stocks are the unsung innovators of our economy, many of them available at value-like prices.
If you want to field a complete team, these seven small-cap ETFs will help you do that.
Small-Cap ETFs to Buy: SPDR Portfolio Small Cap ETF (SPSM)
Expense Ratio: 0.05%, or $5 per $10,000 invested annually.
The SPDR Portfolio Small Cap ETF (NYSEARCA:SPSM) is one of State Street’s low-cost core ETFs that provide investors with a diversified portfolio of core asset classes.
SPSM tracks the performance of the SSGA Small Cap Index, which replaced the Russell 2000 in November 2017. The index is intended to cover small-cap stocks listed on U.S. exchanges with a market cap of at least $100 million, a share price of $1 or more, and a free float ratio of at least 25%.
The index currently holds 2,171 small-cap securities while the fund’s slightly smaller at 1,934 holdings and a weighted average market cap of $2.6 billion.
By charging just 0.05% annually, it’s an excellent way to gain exposure to some of America’s next great companies. Year to date, it’s up 12.1%.
iShares Core S&P Small-Cap ETF (IJR)
Expense Ratio: 0.07%
The iShares Core S&P Small-Cap ETF (NYSEARCA:IJR) is one of only six small-cap ETFs included in a list of the 100 largest funds by total net assets. As of May 28, it had $42.3 billion in total net assets.
Like SPSM, this is one of iShares’ building blocks to a foundational ETF portfolio. IJR tracks the performance of the S&P SmallCap 600, a float-adjusted market cap index representing 3% of all publicly traded U.S. equity securities. The average market cap of IJR’s holdings is $300 million less than the benchmark.
The ETF currently holds 602 stocks, 89% of which are small-cap stocks with mid-caps accounting for another 3% and micro caps the remaining 8%. The average holding has a price-to-prospective earnings ratio of 16.9. Its top 10 holdings accounted for just 5.3% of the overall portfolio.
Year to date, it’s up 8.9%. It charges just 0.07% annually in fees.
JPMorgan Diversified Return U.S. Small Cap Equity ETF (JPSE)
Expense Ratio: 0.29%
JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) has gotten serious about ETFs in the past two years, and that’s good news for its investors. In 2018, investors put $16.8 billion in ETFs run by JPMorgan Asset Management, 10 times higher than the amount invested a year earlier.
One of the funds gaining favor with investors is the JPMorgan Diversified Return U.S. Small Cap Equity ETF (NYSEARCA:JPSE), which got its start in November 2016, and has $169 million in total net assets.
The ETF tracks the performance of the JP Morgan Diversified Factor US Small Cap Equity Index, a collection of small-cap stocks selected from the Russell 2000 chosen based on value, momentum and quality criteria. The companies in the index vary in market cap from $23 million to $12 billion.
The ETF currently holds 869 stocks with a turnover ratio of 30.5%, which means it replaces the entire portfolio approximately every three years.
Year to date, it’s up 10.5%. It charges 0.29% annually in fees. Although higher than many of the ETFs on this list, the rules-based nature of the ETF makes the extra cost worthwhile.
Principal U.S. Small-Cap Multi-Factor Index ETF (PSC)
Expense Ratio: 0.38%
If JPMorgan is less known to ETF investors, I would think Principal Financial’s (NYSE:PFG) ETFs are virtually unknown to regular investors.
However, I thought it made sense to include a small-cap ETF from seven different ETF providers, so the Principal U.S. Small-Cap Multi-Factor Index ETF (NYSEARCA:PSC) made the cut.
Except for the two international small-cap ETFs on this list, PSC is the most expensive of the funds at 0.38% annually.
For that, investors get an ETF that tracks the performance of the Nasdaq US Small Cap Select Leaders Index, an index that uses growth and value quantitative factors to select stocks from the Nasdaq US Small Cap Index.
With a total of 454 holdings, PSC has managed to attract $333 million in net assets in less than three years. An interesting difference with the index is that stocks are weighted by liquidity and volatility. Too little of the first criteria and too much of the second and a stock’s weighting is lower. And vice versa.
Year to date, it’s up 8.4%.
ProShares Russell 2000 Dividend Growers ETF (SMDV)
Expense Ratio: 0.4%
When you think of small caps, you rarely think of dividend stocks.
However, the ProShares Russell 2000 Dividend Growers ETF (NYSEARCA:SMDV) is the only ETF that focuses on small-cap stocks from the Russell 2000 that have increased dividends for 10 consecutive years. If you’re a fan of dividend stocks, SMDV has got to be up for consideration.
Besides the fact that this ETF invests in dividend stocks, this fund has got a few other attractive qualities.
For starters, there are only 60 holdings. That means you’re getting a decent weighting for every one of the small caps in the ETF.
Secondly, the holdings are equally weighted and rebalanced four times a year in March, June, September and December. I’ve always liked equal-weight funds because they aren’t reliant on one or two stocks to deliver most of the returns.
Lastly, its 30-day SEC yield is 2.2%, an excellent complement to the capital appreciation you expect from small-cap stocks.
Year to date, it’s up 8.9%.
Vanguard FTSE All-World ex-US Small-Cap ETF (VSS)
Expense Ratio: 0.12%
If you’re going to talk about ETFs, you must have at least one from Vanguard.
I’ve chosen the Vanguard FTSE All-World ex-US Small-Cap ETF (NYSEARCA:VSS), which charges a very reasonable 0.12% annually, because it has an interesting list of top-10 holdings.
Well, the ETF excludes the U.S. and only has a North American weighting of 14.2%, yet Canadian stocks account for all of its top-10 holdings. Tracking the FTSE Global Small Cap Ex US Index, a float-adjusted, market-cap-weighted index, Canada represents the second-largest holding by country, behind Japan at 16% and ahead of the UK at 11.2%. It invests in 46 different markets.
VSS has a total of $5.5 billion in net assets invested in 3,586 stocks. That compares to 3,449 stocks for the index itself. The median market cap of the ETF’s holdings is $1.6 billion. The portfolio turnover rate is just 15%, which means it replaces all of its holdings every 6.5 years.
Vanguard continues to be a great way to gain global exposure to stocks small and large. Year to date, the VSS ETF is up 8%
WisdomTree International SmallCap Equity Fund (DLS)
Expense Ratio: 0.58%
The WisdomTree International SmallCap Equity Fund (NYSEARCA:DLS) tracks the performance of the WisdomTree International SmallCap Index. The index represents the bottom 25% of the market cap of the WisdomTree International Equity Index after the top 300 companies have been removed. It excludes dividend-paying stocks from the U.S. and Canada.
Of the index’s 1,588 holdings, 28% have market caps between $2 billion and $10 billion. The remaining 72% have market caps of less than $2 billion.
The top three countries by weighting are Japan (25%), the UK (15%) and Australia (11%). The top-10 holdings account for 6% of the fund’s $1.6 billion in total net assets. In terms of sector representation, the top three by weight are industrials (22%), consumer discretionary (16%), and financials (14%).
The most expensive of the seven ETFs at 0.58% in fees, don’t let its year-to-date performance of 7% fool you. Long-term you’re going to like having this dividend ETF in your corner to deliver performance when the U.S. doesn’t.
At the time of this writing Will Ashworth did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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