The $8B iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (NASDAQ:IBB) fell 4.9% on Friday and 13% for the week - its worst weekly performance since the height of the financial panic seven years ago. Many biotech ETFs eat the same cooking - Gilead (NASDAQ:GILD), Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN), Biogen (NASDAQ:BIIB), and Regeneron (NASDAQ:REGN) among the popular names - and FBT, XBI, and BBP fell in amounts similar to IBB.
The news flow was relatively quiet late in the week, but Hilary Clinton's promise Monday to clamp down on drug prices set things in negative motion for the momo sector.
Barron's Chris Dieterich reminds that a flood of biotech IPOs in recent years has filled the small cap universe with these highly speculative names, and biotech now makes up 7% of the iShares Russell 2000 Index (NYSEARCA:IWM). Indeed. The IWM fell 3.7% for the week, nearly tripling the decline of the S&P 500.
Today's decline in the Russell 2000 (IWM -1.4%) puts it more than 10% below the level hit in March (and in July). The index fell 6% in September alone.
For the year, the Russell is lower by 6.6% after gaining nearly 40% in 2013.
As rough as it's been, it's the divergence with large caps which looks like the bigger story - while the small caps have fallen 10% during their correction, the S&P 500 is flat, and only in the last two weeks beginning to move in lockstep with the Russell.
For the year, the S&P 500 is up 5.4%, about 1,200 basis points ahead of the Russell, and on a year-over-year basis, the S&P's 15% gain is 1,500 basis points faster than the Russell.
Hammering away at the misconception that it pays to seek active managers in supposedly "less efficient" sectors like small caps, S&P Dow Jones' Philip Murphy finds - even choosing among the top mutual fund share classes - an alarmingly small number of managers failed to beat the benchmarks.
Starting at the March 2009 bottom and going out five years, only 9 of 139 share classes beat the S&P SmallCap 600 benchmark (that's 5.9% of the starting set).
Where alpha might be able to be delivered though, is in choosing which benchmark to track. A fund tracking the S&P SmallCap 600 (IJR, VIOO) would have outperformed one tracking the Russell 2000 (NYSEARCA:IWM) by 23% over the 5-year period.
Russell Investments is planning its annual index realignment today, affecting more than $5T in assets. Credit Suisse estimates $42B will trade as a result of the adjustment, resulting in one of the biggest trading days of the year in terms of dollar volume.
Asset managers and investors will have to realign their portfolios to match up with the new shifts in indices such as the Russell 2000 and the Russell 3000.
Due to the expected surge in volume, exchanges are now busy preparing for possible technical issues occurring over the course of the day.
Yesterday, the London Stock Exchange said it will acquire Frank Russell for $2.7B.
London Stock Exchange (LDNXF) has announced that it is buying the asset-management and stock index unit Frank Russell for $2.7B. A large chunk of the funding for the acquisition will be based off a $1.6B rights issue to be issued in September.
The stock-index operations of Frank Russell include the Russell 2000 barometer of small-cap stocks, while the investment business has $256B in assets under management.
Chicago-based Good Harbor Financial is among the largest ETF portfolio managers and the company in May began to rebalance its $11B U.S. Tactical Core Strategy twice a month instead of once - today marks the first mid-month trade for the portfolio, reports the WSJ.
Good Harbor's main strategy today, says the Journal, looked to be selling small caps as well as two ETFs tied to the S&P 500 (SPY -0.7%), and volume spiked in the iShares Russell 2000 ETF (IWM -1.6%), the ProShares Ultra Russell 2000 (UWM -3%), the iShares Core S&P 500 ETF (IVV -0.7%) and the ProShares Ultra S&P 500 (SSO -1.5%).
Good Harbors was the largest single holder of three of those funds as of the end of March, and the 2nd largest holder of the fourth.
As it sold the equity ETFs, Good Harbors appeared to be buying two mid-to-long-dated Treasury bond ETFs, the iShares 7-10 Year Treasury Bond Fund (IEF +0.3%) and the ProShares Ultra 7-10 Year Treasury ETF (UST +0.7%), with both having volumes many multiples higher than normal.
Good Harbors was also a seller of small caps and a buyer of Treasurys in early May, says the Journal, which earlier this year reported traders growing accustomed to waiting for the firm's monthly rebalance.
London Stock Exchange (LDNXF) is in exclusive negotiations with Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance to buy the latter's asset-management and stock index unit, Frank Russell, which the WSJ reports could be worth $3B.
The stock-index operations include the Russell 2000 barometer of small companies, while the investment business has $260B of assets under management. (PR)
Small-cap stocks enjoyed a bit of a bounce yesterday but they've lagged the broader market this year, and Credit Suisse predicts more pain ahead.
Even though many individual growth stocks have been hit much harder, the Russell 2000 has dropped only ~9% from its early March 2014 peak; average and median pullbacks in the Russell 2000 since the mid-1990s have been a respective 21% and 14%, so Credit Suisse thinks the historical track record points to the Russell approaching 1,000 (vs. its YTD peak of 1,209 and Friday's close of 1,097) before finding a bottom.
The iShares Russell 2000 ETF (IWM) is down ~5% YTD, with its biggest losers - MLI, MDSO, FNGN, ISIS - all plunging at least 40% so far.
Meanwhile, the S&P continues to hold up relatively well, and Citigroup’s Tobias Levkovich thinks easier lending standards for bigger companies is an important factor explaining large-cap outperformance; Bespoke sees large-cap stability holding just as much weight as the argument that weakness in momentum names eventually will spill over to the broad market.
Making the rounds across trading desks is this chart showing the Russell 2000 (IWM -1%) this week closing below its 200-day moving average for the first time since November 2012.
BAML's Macneil Curry adds a couple of additional technical ideas, noting Tuesdays this year have typically been positive, but not this week, and the Russell 2000 looks to be completing a 4-month head-and-shoulders top.
The small cap index is now off 5.3% YTD vs. a 1.6% gain for the S&P 500. It's also now fallen below the S&P on a Y/Y basis, up 13.3% vs. the big cap's 14.9% gain.
"It's hard to find a bargain out there," says Fidelity fund manager John Roth, as - even with two sharp small-cap selloffs this year - the Russell 2000 (IWM) is down only 3.5%, and still trades at a lofty 19.1x earnings. At the start of 2013, the index's P/E was 15.1, and the average since 1994 is 16.9. After trimming positions in Q1, Roth's New Millenium Fund holds just 12% of assets in small caps vs. an average of 19% from 2008-2013.
Manager of the $240M Wasatch Small Cap Value Fund, Jim Larkings is keeping cash towards the higher end of his typical 2-8% of AUM. He's finding some value in those small caps reeling due to the broader selloff in high-growth tech, but "The real darlings aren't even close to value territory."
Individual investors, however, continue to be believers, pouring $3.1B into small cap mutual funds to add to $16.4B in inflows last year.
Stocks look set to pick up where they left off on Friday, with tech and small caps again leading the slide. Nasdaq 100 (QQQ) futures are off 0.9% and Russell 2000 (IWM) futures are down 0.8%. S&P 500 (SPY) -0.5%.
Europe's off about 1% and the Nikkei lost 1.7% overnight in response to the big selloff in the States.
The 10-year Treasury yield is flat at 2.72% and gold is off 0.4% to $1,299 per ounce.
There's little movement in the S&P 500 and Dow, but what the chart-watchers like to call a technical divergence is occurring in the Nasdaq (QQQ -1.4%) and Small Caps (IWM -0.8%) for the 2nd consecutive day.
Leading the Nasdaq lower are roughly 2% declines in Google and Microsoft. The deflating Biotech sector (IBB -2%) is again the main culprit in small caps. Up 20% YTD in late February, the IBB is back to about flat for 2014.