That does not sound like the most encouraging headline, but with all the talk of this year’s laggard status for small-cap stocks and exchange traded funds, less bad can be deemed “sort of attractive.”
With Thursday’s tumble, the iShares Russell 2000 ETF (NYSEArca: IWM) is staring at a decline of about 8.5% since its July 1 closing peak, indicating the benchmark small-cap ETF is heading toward another correction. Weakness in small-caps has induced a condition for IWM technical analysts call a “death cross” where the near-term 50-day moving average dips below its long-term 200-day moving average. The new trend indicates a bear market could be right around the corner and the long-term moving average is seen as the new resistance level. [Small-Cap Death Cross]
Getting back to the less bad theme with small-caps, the WisdomTree SmallCap Dividend Fund (NYSEArca: DES) is off 7.7% since July 1 when factoring Thursday’s decline, indicating that dividends provide some buffer against small-cap weakness. Year-to-date, DES has outperformed IWM and the iShares Core S&P Small-Cap ETF (NYSEArca: IJR) by an average of 50 basis points. [Dividend Buffer for Small-Cap ETFs]
Obviously, there has not been much to write home about this year in the world of broad, U.S.-focused small-cap ETFs, but it is clear there are advantages to mixing dividends with small-caps. At least in the case of DES. The ETF tracks theWisdomTree SmallCap Dividend Index, which sports a dividend yield of 3.49%. That compares with a trailing 12-month yield of just 1.27% on the Russell 2000.
Though not perfect, DES has skirted some of the small-cap slide by virtue of a somewhat conservative sector lineup. While ample exposure to consumer discretionary, technology and health care small-caps works well when there is broader strength among smaller stocks, those sectors have been significant contributors to this year’s small-cap woes. DES allocates a combined 21.5% of its weight to those sectors compared to nearly 43% in IWM. [Advantages of Small-Cap Dividend ETFs]
To be fair, there are examples of small-cap dividend ETFs encountering challenges this year. For example, the WisdomTree U.S. SmallCap Dividend Growth Fund (NasdaqGM: DGRS), with a larger combined weight to discretionary, tech and health care names than DES, has trailed IWM on a year-to-date basis.