Small Caps Lead Market – Good or Bad Omen?

The Russell 2000 index of small cap stocks just pushed to new all-time highs.

Is this bullish for stocks?

To find out, I’ve plotted the S&P 500 against the IWM:IWB (small cap/large cap) ratio.

IWM is the iShares Russell 2000 ETF (NYSEarca: IWM). IWB is the iShares Russell 1000 ETF (NYSEArca: IWB).

Based on the ratio (currently at 1.06), the recent outperformance is by no means extreme.

What if we pretend for a moment that small cap outperformance was extreme (reading of 1.10 or greater)?

The red lines mark prior periods of small cap outperformance (IWM:IWB > 1.10). The S&P 500 (NYSEArca: SPY) couldn’t care less.

If anything, one could make an argument that extreme small cap underperformance works as buy signal. The dashed gray lines highlight readings smaller than 1.03.

 

The gray overlay of the iShares Russell 2000 Small Cap ETF (IWM), makes it clear that IWM is only trading 3% above where it was a year ago. The S&P 500 gained 13% since March 2014.

Small caps are often portrayed to be the engine that pulls the train (or at least the canary in the mine), but that’s not true.

We dispelled this myth in July when many jumped on the ‘small caps are down, the market’s going to crash’ bandwagon.

Perhaps recent small cap outperformance is a reflection of the idea that a strong dollar hurts multi-national large caps with overseas income more than small domestic companies.

But what happens if dollar strength takes a breather?

One more thought: Historically, small caps tend to under perform in the later stages of a bull market.

Simon Maierhofer is the publisher of the Profit Radar Report. The Profit Radar Report presents complex market analysis (S&P 500, Dow Jones, gold, silver, euro and bonds) in an easy format. Technical analysis, sentiment indicators, seasonal patterns and common sense are all wrapped up into two or more easy-to-read weekly updates. All Profit Radar Report recommendations resulted in a 59.51% net gain in 2013 and 17.59% in 2014.

Follow Simon on Twitter @ iSPYETF or sign up for the FREE iSPYETF Newsletter to get actionable ETF trade ideas delivered for free.

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Bullish Russell 2000 Signals – Will They Last?

The Russell 2000 has weighted down the broad stock market since March. Now, for the first time in a while, the Russell 2000 is actually outperforming large cap stocks. Does that mean that small caps will lead the market higher?

The Russell 2000 is showing signs of life, after months of underperformance relative to the S&P 500.

The Russell 2000 is one of the only indexes (along with the MidCap 400) that painted a green reversal candle (see chart insert).

Prior to erasing last week’s losses, the Russell 2000 also dipped to a 52-week low. A weekly reversal after a 52-week low is also considered a selling climax.

605 stocks recorded selling climaxes last week. This is the highest count of selling climaxes since October 2011, which marked a major bottom (more details here: Selling Climaxes Soar to 4-year High).

From a technical perspective, here are a few Russell 2000 developments to keep in mind:

  • Bullish: Last week’s green reversal candle pushed the Russell 2000 back above support at 1,080.
  • Almost Confirmed: The chart below shows one indicator I like to monitor when it comes to spotting trend changes. On the short-term daily chart, this indicator requires a close above Friday’s high. The same is true for the weekly chart.
  • Confirmation Needed: The IWM:IWB ratio shows the performance of small caps (IWM Russell 2000 ETF) relative to large caps (IWB Russell 1000 ETF). The IWM:IWB ratio is about to test prior support, now resistance.

Unless the ratio can move above 1.05, small caps are likely to continue underperforming their large cap cousins.

In short, the Russell 2000 is showing strength, and odds of continued up side are increasing.

Simon Maierhofer is the publisher of the Profit Radar Report. The Profit Radar Report presents complex market analysis (S&P 500, Dow Jones, gold, silver, euro and bonds) in an easy format. Technical analysis, sentiment indicators, seasonal patterns and common sense are all wrapped up into two or more easy-to-read weekly updates. All Profit Radar Report recommendations resulted in a 59.51% net gain in 2013.

Follow Simon on Twitter @ iSPYETF or sign up for the FREE iSPYETF Newsletter to get actionable ETF trade ideas delivered for free.

How Bad is Small Cap Underperformance for the Broad Stock Market?

The small cap sector has lost as much as 10% while the Dow Jones and S&P 500 are still within 1% of their all-time high. This chart illustrates the discrepancy better than any other. How bad is this for the broad stock market?

Small cap stocks have been taking it on the chin. The Russell 2000 lost as much as 9.85%. How bad is small caps’ performance relative to large caps?

Bad! Here’s a look at the small cap:large cap ratio (published in yesterday’s Profit Radar Report). The chart below shows the ratio between the iShares Russell 2000 ETF (NYSEArca: IWM) and the iShares Russell 1000 ETF (NYSEArca: IWB).

Small caps erased an 11-month performance edge in less than 6 weeks. The last time the IWM:IWB dropped as far was from July – October 2011.

The second chart plots the S&P 500 (SNP: ^GSPC) against the IWM:IWB ratio. The July – October 2011 small cap underperformance (big IWM:IWB drop) was a coordinated decline that saw large and small caps decline at the same time.

Small caps just fell much harder than the S&P 500.

This time is different. Small caps are down significantly while large caps (S&P 500 and Dow Jones) remain within 1.5% of their all-time highs.

At the same time, the Russell 2000 closed below the 200-day SMA for the first time since November 21, 2012.

However, this may be more of a bear trap than a sell signal. There is a must hold support area that’s more important (because not as obvious) and less prone to false signals than the 200-day SMA.

Must hold support is outlined in yesterday’s Profit Radar Report.

Personally, I feel that there’s been too much bearish media coverage for stocks to enter an immediate, prolonged correction (must hold support will tell me when I’m wrong), so I’m also looking at key resistance. The kind of resistance that should U-turn a bounce.

Must hold support is discussed in yesterday’s Profit Radar Report. Key resistance is revealed here:

The Secret Dow Jones Barrier Every Investor Should Know

Simon Maierhofer is the publisher of the Profit Radar Report. The Profit Radar Report presents complex market analysis (S&P 500, Dow Jones, gold, silver, euro and bonds) in an easy format. Technical analysis, sentiment indicators, seasonal patterns and common sense are all wrapped up into two or more easy-to-read weekly updates. All Profit Radar Report recommendations resulted in a 59.51% net gain in 2013.

Follow Simon on Twitter @ iSPYETF or sign up for the FREE iSPYETF Newsletter to get actionable ETF trade ideas delivered for free.

Money is Rushing from Small Caps into Large Caps

Money is always rotating from one segment to another. Sometimes this rotation is bullish, other times it’s bearish. Right now money is flowing from small caps into large caps, a sign that investors are losing their appetite for risk.

Somebody flipped the switch from ‘risk on’ to ‘risk off.’

There are many measures of ‘risk on – risk off.’ Almost all of them are lagging.

I usually don’t care for lagging gauges, but this one has an interesting twist.

Illustrated in the chart below is the ratio between the iShares Russell 2000 ETF (NYSEArca: IWM) and iShares Russell 1000 ETF (NYSEArca: IWB).

A high ratio means that investors prefer small caps over large caps (risk on) and vice versa.

Although the ratio has been stuck in a range since August 2013, up until recently more money was flowing into the small cap Russell 2000 ETF than into the large cap Russell 1000 ETF.

This changed rather abruptly.

Here’s what makes this IWM:IWB ratio interesting:

The ratio has dropped to levels of prior support. As the dashed purple lines indicate, ratio lows generally occur fairly close to S&P 500 lows.

Obviously, the IWM:IWB is not at a new low, but the gray lines show that prior tests of this low caused temporary S&P 500 (NYSE: SPY) bounces.

This may be the case here too. A drop below the lower green support line, however, may indicate a change of investor behavior.

Less appetite for risk generally translates into lower prices.

While the IWM:IWB ratio has yet to drop below support, another indicator has already triggered a sell signal. More details here:’

MACD Triggers the Year’s Most Infamous Sell Signal

Simon Maierhofer is the publisher of the Profit Radar Report. The Profit Radar Report presents complex market analysis (S&P 500, Dow Jones, gold, silver, euro and bonds) in an easy format. Technical analysis, sentiment indicators, seasonal patterns and common sense are all wrapped up into two or more easy-to-read weekly updates. All Profit Radar Report recommendations resulted in a 59.51% net gain in 2013.

Follow Simon on Twitter @ iSPYETF or sign up for the FREE iSPYETF Newsletter to get actionable ETF trade ideas delivered for free.