Barring a Santa Claus rally and early start to the January Effect of epic proportions, one thing 2014 will be remembered for is the laggard status of small-caps.
Entering Monday, the iShares Russell 2000 ETF (NYSEArca: IWM), the benchmark small-cap ETF, was up just 1.2% compared to a nearly 12% year-to-date for the S&P 500. However, not all small-cap ETFs have been abject failures and while it is not easy to find focused small-cap funds that top the S&P 500, there are some that come close.
The PowerShares S&P SmallCap Information Technology Portfolio (NasdaqGM: PSCT) is one example. PSCT, the small-cap answer to the venerable Technology Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLK), has left the Russell 2000 in the dust this year on its way to a gain of nearly 10%. [Sector ETFs in Small Packages]
PSCT was one of just 113 ETFs, or less than 10% of the U.S. exchange traded products universe, to hit an all-time high last Friday. Identifying catalysts for the ETF’s impressive year-to-date showing is not difficult.
Another thing 2014 will be remembered for is the leadership of semiconductor makers within the technology sector. Up nearly 31% this year, the Market Vectors Semiconductor ETF (NYSEArca: SMH) is 2014’s best tech ETF. [Chip ETFs are on Fire]
Fortunately for PSCT investors, the ETF’s 22.7% weight to chip stocks is the fund’s second-largest industry allocation behind a 23.3% weight to electronic equipment, components and instruments makers. PSCT’s run could still be in the early innings.
Demand for semiconductors could rise on holiday shopping for smartphone upgrades, computers and other personal devices. Not only is the semiconductor industry currently in the midst of seasonally strong period, but over the past 20 years, the NASDAQ Composite has posted an average December gain of 2%, according to EquityClock.com. That makes the last month of the the year the third-best month for the NASDAQ.