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Is iShares MSCI USA SmallCap Multifactor ETF (SMLF) a Strong ETF Right Now?

A smart beta exchange traded fund, the iShares MSCI USA SmallCap Multifactor ETF (SMLF) debuted on 04/28/2015, and offers broad exposure to the Style Box - Small Cap Blend category of the market.

What Are Smart Beta ETFs?

Market cap weighted indexes were created to reflect the market, or a specific segment of the market, and the ETF industry has traditionally been dominated by products based on this strategy.

A good option for investors who believe in market efficiency, market cap weighted indexes offer a low-cost, convenient, and transparent way of replicating market returns.

If you're the kind of investor who would rather try and beat the market through good stock selection, then smart beta funds are your best choice; this fund class is known for tracking non-cap weighted strategies.

Non-cap weighted indexes try to choose stocks that have a better chance of risk-return performance, which is based on specific fundamental characteristics, or a mix of other such characteristics.

While this space offers a number of choices to investors, including simplest equal-weighting, fundamental weighting and volatility/momentum based weighting methodologies, not all these strategies have been able to deliver superior results.

Fund Sponsor & Index

Because the fund has amassed over $983.95 million, this makes it one of the larger ETFs in the Style Box - Small Cap Blend. SMLF is managed by Blackrock. SMLF seeks to match the performance of the MSCI USA Small Cap Diversified Multiple-Factor Index before fees and expenses.

The MSCI USA Small Cap Diversified Multiple-Factor Index is designed to select equity securities from MSCI USA Small Cap Index that have high exposure to four investment style factors: value, quality, momentum and low size.

Cost & Other Expenses

For ETF investors, expense ratios are an important factor when considering a fund's return; in the long-term, cheaper funds actually have the ability to outperform their more expensive cousins if all other things remain the same.

Operating expenses on an annual basis are 0.30% for SMLF, making it on par with most peer products in the space.

SMLF's 12-month trailing dividend yield is 1.41%.

Sector Exposure and Top Holdings

ETFs offer diversified exposure and thus minimize single stock risk, but it is still important to delve into a fund's holdings before investing. Most ETFs are very transparent products and many disclose their holdings on a daily basis.

SMLF's heaviest allocation is in the Information Technology sector, which is about 18.60% of the portfolio. Its Healthcare and Financials round out the top three.

When you look at individual holdings, Ovintiv Inc (OVV) accounts for about 1.28% of the fund's total assets, followed by United Therapeutics Corp (UTHR) and Jones Lang Lasalle Inc (JLL).

The top 10 holdings account for about 3.33% of total assets under management.

Performance and Risk

Year-to-date, the iShares MSCI USA SmallCap Multifactor ETF has lost about -12.02% so far, and is down about -14.64% over the last 12 months (as of 11/09/2022). SMLF has traded between $44.10 and $59.93 in this past 52-week period.

The fund has a beta of 1.09 and standard deviation of 29.03% for the trailing three-year period, which makes SMLF a high risk choice in this particular space. With about 504 holdings, it effectively diversifies company-specific risk.


IShares MSCI USA SmallCap Multifactor ETF is a reasonable option for investors seeking to outperform the Style Box - Small Cap Blend segment of the market. However, there are other ETFs in the space which investors could consider.

IShares Russell 2000 ETF (IWM) tracks Russell 2000 Index and the iShares Core S&P SmallCap ETF (IJR) tracks S&P SmallCap 600 Index. IShares Russell 2000 ETF has $51.93 billion in assets, iShares Core S&P SmallCap ETF has $65.89 billion. IWM has an expense ratio of 0.19% and IJR charges 0.06%.

Investors looking for cheaper and lower-risk options should consider traditional market cap weighted ETFs that aim to match the returns of the Style Box - Small Cap Blend.

Bottom Line

To learn more about this product and other ETFs, screen for products that match your investment objectives and read articles on latest developments in the ETF investing universe, please visit Zacks ETF Center.

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iShares MSCI USA SmallCap Multifactor ETF (SMLF): ETF Research Reports
Jones Lang LaSalle Incorporated (JLL) : Free Stock Analysis Report
United Therapeutics Corporation (UTHR) : Free Stock Analysis Report
iShares Russell 2000 ETF (IWM): ETF Research Reports
iShares Core S&P SmallCap ETF (IJR): ETF Research Reports
Ovintiv Inc. (OVV) : Free Stock Analysis Report
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