Checking In: Why Not This Small-Cap Value Play?
No, this has not been a good year for investing in small-caps. At least not in the broad sense of the statement. The iShares Russell 2000 Index Fund (NYSE: IWM) is down more than 15% year-to-date. Those ETFs that are intended to be plays on small-cap growth plays have offered little shelter from the storm.
Unfortunately, the same can be said of the ETFs that track small-cap value stocks. The Vanguard Small Cap Value ETF (NYSE: VBR) and the iShares Russell 2000 Value Index Fund (NYSE: IWN) are both down about 12% year-to-date.
So in that vein, the First Trust Small Cap Value AlphaDEX Fund (NYSE: FYT) is arguably underrated. It's easily undiscovered. FYT, which made its debut in April, tracks the &P SmallCap 600 Value Index and is home to 244 stocks.
With an expense ratio of 0.7% (higher than the aforementioned ETFs) and assets under management of almost $3.8 million (well below those other funds) FYT is down just 6.7% year-to-date. Four sectors – consumer discretionary, technology, industrials and financials – get double-digit weights in FYT, but what may be under-appreciated about the ETF is the fact that no single stock gets an allocation of more than 1.14%.
With consumer discretionary and tech names usually performing well at this time of year, this would be the time to take a look at FYT in hopes and preparation of a Santa Claus rally and decent start to 2012. And maybe, just maybe, small-caps have beaten up enough in 2011 that they are now offering legitimate value.
As we approach the end of 2011, it's a good time to look back at what the best new ETFs of the year have been on any number of levels. FYT's AUM and volume totals aren't going to win any prizes. Nor is the concept of small-cap value ETF because FYT is merely encroaching on territory already explored by others.
However, FYT might be one of the most under-appreciated new ETFs of 2011 and if small-caps do bounce back in 2012, the statistics show FYT could very well be a better bet than comparable fare from iShares and Vanguard.
Bull case: Simply put, risk appetite must return to the point that small-caps are embraced again. With FYT's emphasis on discretionary and tech names, investors willing to bet on growth, even if it's with a value ETF, should do well with this fund in a strong bull market.
Bear case: Small-caps, even the value plays, get glossed over as nervous investors move to bonds and stick with staples and utilities.
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