Small-cap stocks have endured significant scrutiny this year and rightfully so. Even with an impressive rally that has seen the iShares Russell 2000 ETF (NYSEArca: IWM) jump nearly 10% off its Oct. 10 bottom, the largest small-cap ETF is still only up half a percent this year.
That compares to a nearly 9.5% gain for the S&P 500, but some investors have been more than nibbling at small-caps this month, waiting on the aforementioned rebound. Investors have added over $1.8 billion to IWM this month, indicating institutional money is being put to work in the ETF. [Investors Return to Small-Cap ETFs]
If the small-cap rally continues to legitimize itself another familiar face among ETFs tracking smaller stocks will be worth revisiting. Actually, it already has been. The PowerShares DWA SmallCap Momentum Portfolio (NYSEArca: DWAS) is up 11.5% since Oct. 10.
DWAS rose to small-cap ETF acclaim last year when it surged 50.1% compared to a 38.7% gain for IWM. Stocks held by DWAS are selected specifically because of their robust relative strength traits, which has significant out-performance of broader small-cap indices last year. Investors flocked to DWAS last year, helping the ETF double in size. [These ETFs Doubled in Size]
However, when momentum and small-caps fell out of favor earlier this year, DWAS paid the price. From the start of March through the end of June, DWAS traded lower even as IWM eked out a modest gain.
A large part of DWAS recent out-performance of the Russell 2000 is attributable to the ETF’s overweight position in health care stocks. With small-cap health care names, that usually means biotechnology and life sciences firms. DWAS has a 23.3% weight to the health care sector, 920 basis points more than IWM allocates to the sector.