is an investment strategy that, over long periods, has delivered prolific results. But that doesn’t mean that it always outperforms. Every investment strategy can and does succumb to periods of underperformance.
Since WisdomTree has launched its dividend
-focused Indexes in June of 2006, small-cap value—defined as the Russell 2000 Value Index
—has distinctly underperformed small-cap growth
, defined as the Russell 2000 Growth Index
We’re Talking about a Cumulative Difference of More than 30%
Small-Cap Dividend Payers
The WisdomTree SmallCap Dividend Index
is a value strategy because very few small-cap growth companies in the United States pay regular dividends. It is therefore remarkable that the WisdomTree SmallCap Dividend Index underperformed the Russell 2000 Growth Index by only half of one percentage point on a cumulative basis over this period of nearly 10 years. Why?
1) Interest Rates:
If we’re thinking of the period from June 1, 2006, to March 31, 2016, the bulk of that period was characterized by extremely low interest rates that only started on the path to normalization in December of 2015. The income-generating potential of the Real Estate and Utilities exposures over the course of the WisdomTree SmallCap Dividend Index’s history could explain the desirability of the income from these types of stocks.
Every year, the constituents of the WisdomTree SmallCap Dividend Index that raise their dividends more than other U.S. small-cap stocks get greater weight in the Index. The process tends to tilt away from stocks whose prices have appreciated faster than their dividends, and it does this at a regular, annual frequency.
Is 2016 an Inflection Point?
Predicting inflection points where one style of investing goes from outperforming to underperforming is very difficult to do accurately and consistently over time. It is possible, based on the admittedly early performance data for 2016, that such a switch could be under way. Through March 31, 2016, the Russell 2000 Value Index has delivered outperformance on a cumulative basis against the Russell 2000 Growth Index. There is no way to know if this will continue, but we find it interesting that the WisdomTree SmallCap Dividend Index held up very well in what many would consider a non-favorable environment, characterized by the outperformance of growth over value. If value begins to outperform, it stands to reason that the overall environment could be more favorable to a dividend-focused, small-cap U.S. strategy.
Don’t Forget about Small-Cap Dividend Payers
The WisdomTree SmallCap Dividend Index has a dividend yield of 3.9%. Only about 20% of its weight had a dividend yield below that of the U.S. 10-Year Treasury note
as of March 31, 2016.1
If small-cap value is a style that comes into favor in 2016, and if interest rates remain low for an extended period, this could be a very interesting strategy to consider.
Unless otherwise noted, data source is Bloomberg, with data from 6/1/2006 to 3/31/2016.