U.S. Small-Cap ETFs Decline; Global Rivals Shine

As the momentum trade continues to unwind, exchange traded funds with exposure to U.S. small-caps are falling on hard times.

Since the beginning of March, the iShares Russell 2000 ETF (NYSEArca: IWM) and the Vanguard Small-Cap ETF (NYSEArca: VB) are down 5.5% and 2.9%, respectively. IWM is now trading below its 200-day moving average for the first time since late 2012. [Small-Cap ETFs Falter]

Some international small-cap ETFs did not get the memo. As emerging markets large-caps have perked, select small-caps have gone along for the ride with the WisdomTree Emerging Markets SmallCap Dividend Fund (NYSEArca: DGS) gaining 5.5% since the start of March.

DGS has benefited as conservative, lower beta emerging markets such as Taiwan and South Korea have proven sturdy. Those countries combine for about 38% of DGS’ weight. Although stocks in China and Russia are inexpensive, the fact that DGS has a small combined allocation of about 6% has helped the ETF at a time when stocks in those countries are flailing. The underlying index for DGS has a dividend yield of 4.36%. [EM Dividends Work Again for This ETF]

As U.S. small-caps have faltered, European equivalents have remained sturdy. Just look at the WisdomTree Europe SmallCap Dividend Fund (NYSEArca: DFE), which was the top Europe ETF last year.

DFE’s underlying index has a dividend yield of 3.51% and inflows suggest investors have awakened to the idea of using small-caps as a means for gaining exposure to the European recovery. In February, DFE topped $1 billion in assets under management. That number has since swelled to $1.65. DFE is conservatively postured at the country level as four of the top-10 country weights are not Eurozone members.

The oft-overlooked Market Vectors Latin America Small-Cap Index ETF (NYSEArca: LATM) is higher by nearly 5% since March 3. A 34.4% weight to Brazil, the ETF’s largest country weight, has helped LATM’s cause.

So has a combined 27% weight to Mexican and Chilean stocks as equity markets in those countries appear to be awakening from long slumbers. Latin American small-caps, at least the ones held by LATM, are cheap as the ETF had a trailing 12-month P/E of just 1.77 at the end of April, according to Market Vectors data.