It is starting to sound like a broken record. The S&P 500 is up 8.3% year-to-date, but small-caps are lagging with the iShares Russell 2000 ETF (NYSEArca: IWM) up just half a percent.
The situation has worsened over the past month with IWM lower by 2.8% while the S&P 500 is up 1.2%. Small-cap weakness has been blamed on a disappointing year for the consumer discretionary sector along with frothy valuations on smaller biotechnology and technology companies. Discretionary, health care and technology combine for over 41% of IWM’s weight. [Exploit Small-Cap Weakness With These ETFs]
That does not mean all small-cap ETFs have been disappointments. Small-cap ETFs with an emphasis on dividends have proven durable relative to standard small stock funds. Take the example of the WisdomTree SmallCap Dividend Fund (NYSEArca: DES). The $1 billion DES is up 2.6% year-to-date and has been noticeably less worse than IWM over the past month with a drop of just 1.1%.
The nearly 680 companies in DES are pulled from the WisdomTree Dividend Index after the 300 largest market value firms are removed. That index serves as the benchmark for the popular WisdomTree Total Dividend Fund (NYSEArca: DTD). The dividend bias gives DES a yield of 2.81%, which is 35 basis points above 10-year Treasuries and about two and a half times the trailing 12-month yield found on IWM. [Small-Cap Dividend ETFs Have Advantages]
DES has dodged much of the small-cap weakness due to conservative-by-comparison sector lineup. Discretionary, health care and technology combine for less than 26% of the ETF’s weight. Conversely, more conservative small-cap sectors such as industrials and utilities combine for over 31% of DES.
Speaking of conservative, another option for the investor looking for small-caps and dividends to consider is the PowerShares High Yield Equity Dividend Achievers Portfolio (NYSEArca: PEY). PEY is up 8.1%, though to be fair, it is not an explicit small-cap ETF.