Small Cap Stocks Could Soar Next – Here’s Why the Russell Rally May Be Imminent

0 min read

The major U.S. stock indexes have been on a tear in 2024, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite recently locking in fresh 52-week highs. However, one area of the market that has yet to fully participate in the rally is small-cap stocks, as represented by the Russell 2000 index. While the Russell 2000 is still up around 4% year-to-date, it has significantly lagged the double-digit gains of its large-cap counterparts.

This underperformance from smaller companies may seem perplexing given the robust economic growth and strong corporate earnings that have powered stocks higher. However, there are a couple potential factors holding small caps back for now.

First, investor sentiment remains somewhat cautious after the banking turmoil of 2023. While the systemic crisis was averted, tighter lending standards could disproportionately impact smaller businesses that rely more heavily on bank financing. Recent upticks in loan activity provide some optimism that credit conditions may be thawing.

The other overhang for small caps has been the aggressive interest rate hiking cycle by the Federal Reserve to combat inflation. Higher borrowing costs weigh more heavily on smaller companies compared to their large-cap peers. However, the Fed is now expected to pivot towards rate cuts later in 2024 once inflation is tamed, providing a potential catalyst for small-cap outperformance.

Historically, small caps have tended to lead coming out of economic downturns and in the early stages of new bull markets. Their higher growth orientation allows them to capitalize more quickly on an inflection in the business cycle. A timely Fed pivot to lower rates could be the rocket fuel that allows the Russell 2000 to start playing catch-up in the second half of 2024.

For investors, any near-term consolidation in small caps may present opportunistic entry points in this economically-sensitive segment of the market. While volatility should be expected, the lofty valuations of large-cap tech and momentum plays leave less room for further upside. Well-managed small caps with pricing power and secure funding could offer asymmetric upside as the economic landscape becomes more hospitable in the latter part of the year.

For long-term investors, any potential small-cap rebound could be particularly compelling given the cyclical nature of small versus large-cap performance. Over decades of market history, there has been a tendency for leadership to rotate between the two size segments. After large caps dominated the past decade, buoyed by the tech titans and slow-growth environment, the economic restart could allow small caps to regain leadership.

From a portfolio construction standpoint, maintaining exposure to both small and large caps can provide important diversification benefits. The low correlation between the size segments helps smooth out overall equity volatility. And for investors already overweight large caps after years of outperformance, trimming some of those positions to reallocate towards small caps could prove timely.

While major indexes continue grinding higher, prudent investors should avoid complacency and think about positioning for what could be a new market regime. Small caps have historically possessed a robust return premium over large caps. As the economic backdrops evolves, 2024 may mark the start of small caps returning to form as drivers of broad market returns once again.

Want small cap opportunities delivered straight to your inbox?


Inbox Intel from Channelchek.

Informed investors make more money. And it’s all about timing. Get it when it happens.

By clicking submit you are agreeing to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy