For instance, the SPDR S&P 500 (NYSEArca: SPY) was down 5.2% so far this year while the iShares Russell 1000 ETF (NYSEArca: IWB) was 5.8% lower, Vanguard Large Cap ETF (NYSEArca: VV) dipped 5.7%, Schwab U.S. Large-Cap ETF (NYSEArca: SCHX) fell 5.7% and SPDR Dow Jones Industrial Average ETF (NYSEArca: DIA) was down 5.0%.

Moreover, the widening credit spreads, an indication of growing risk in U.S. corporate debt, have been a bad omen for highly leveraged small-cap companies. The yield premium between junk bonds and Treasuries widened to its highest level since 2009, according to BofA Merrill Lynch data.

The rising yields on junk bonds have been particularly worrisome for the small-cap energy sector, which have taken the biggest hit in the recent selling.

iShares Russell 2000 ETF

Max Chen contributed to this article.

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