When Is the Best Time to Invest in Small-Cap Stocks?

How to Benefit By Investing in Small Cap Stock Funds

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Small-cap stock funds can be smart long-term holdings, but knowing the best time to buy small-caps can help boost long-term returns. There are some smart ways for active investors to adjust exposure to small-cap stock funds to potentially enhance long-term performance, however.

Maximize Returns With Small-Cap Stock Funds

Some investors choose an appropriate allocation of small-cap stock mutual funds and stick to the allocation for the long term. They rebalance the portfolio on a periodic basis, such as once per calendar quarter or once per year. Pure market timing is not a good investment strategy but there are some strategic and tactical moves investors can make to maximize returns.

Keeping an eye on market and economic trends can provide clues about buying opportunities. For example, during the last major correction, at the end of 2018, stocks were down nearly 20 percent from previous highs. Early in 2019 the Federal Reserve was actively lowering interest rates, which can be positive for stocks, especially small-caps.

Another way to look at the best time to buy small-cap stock funds is when it seems that the market has been down for a long period of time. It appears that there's no optimism about the market—a potential low point. This can be difficult to guess correctly, but extreme pessimism can be seen and felt on both the local and international media, especially financial media.

When and Why Small-Cap Stocks Can Beat Large-Cap Stocks

Small companies can begin to rebound in growing economies faster than larger companies. Their collective fate isn't tied directly to interest rates and other economic factors to help them grow. Like a small boat in the water, small companies can move faster and navigate more precisely than the large companies that move like giant ocean liners.

Decisions about new products and services and how to bring them to market can also be made and implemented faster with small companies because they have fewer committees, fewer layers of management, and fewer potential obstructions of the kind that exist in the typical bureaucratic organization of large companies.

When Small-Caps Stocks Can Beat Large-Caps

When the economy begins to emerge from recession and starts growing again, small-cap stocks can respond to the positive environment quicker and potentially grow faster than large-cap stocks.

Small companies—and most growth-oriented stocks across all capitalization—typically raise most of their capital from investors by selling shares of stock. Larger companies borrow money by issuing bonds. Higher interest rates have less negative impact on the ability of small companies to grow because they don't rely heavily on bonds to expand operations and fund projects.

Investing In Small-Cap Stock Funds

As with other types of mutual funds, investors have several choices about how they want to invest in small-cap stock funds. The primary choices are between actively-managed funds and passively-managed funds:

  • Actively-Managed Small-Cap Stock Funds: Under active management, the manager of the fund has discretion in which stocks to buy or sell and the timing of placing the trades. While a successful manager can help to produce above-average returns, they are human, which means they can make mistakes.
  • Passively-Managed Small-Cap Stock Funds: Funds that are passively managed do not attempt to produce above-average returns. Instead, they passively track the performance of an underlying index. A common index that small-cap stock funds track is the Russell 2000 index. Since passively-managed funds cost less to manage, their expense ratios are often lower than actively-managed funds.

Bottom Line

Small-cap stock funds are generally considered to be more aggressive investments compared to large-cap stock funds. This is because small companies can be more affected by changes in the economic environment: During recession small-cap stocks can see larger declines in price; whereas in economic recoveries, small-caps can rise in price faster than large-caps.

Investors who want to take advantage of price fluctuations can choose to buy more shares of small-cap stock funds during market corrections. However, it's important to keep in mind that market timing is not a smart strategy for most investors. A simple strategy to manage a portfolio is to dollar-cost average with consistent purchases and to rebalance the portfolio at least once per year.

The information on this site is provided for discussion purposes only, and should not be misconstrued as investment advice. Under no circumstances does this information represent a recommendation to buy or sell securities.

Article Sources

  1. Reuters. "Fed rate cuts could help cheap U.S. small-cap stocks gain favor." Accessed January 10, 2020.

  2. Institutional Investor. "Why Small-Cap Stocks Trumped Large Caps in a Recovering Economy." Accessed January 10, 2020.

  3. Vanguard. "What Is an Index Fund?" Accessed January 10, 2020.