Are Small-Cap Equity Opportunities Disappearing?

October 04, 2018 | Megan Klassa, Research Associate

Are Small-Cap Equity Opportunities Disappearing

In 1996, there were more than 8,000 companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges. Today, that figure is less than half. This sharp decline can be largely attributed to the disappearance of many small-cap stocks within the U.S. equity market. Small companies are staying private longer due to rigorous regulatory requirements and prohibitive costs associated with going public. As a result, true small-cap exposure is becoming harder and harder for investors to obtain in traditional equity markets.

Given the strong returns of small-cap equities, many investors have made significant allocations to small-cap equity funds. The inefficient nature and relatively large universe of smaller stocks has historically provided a wide opportunity for investments in companies that are commonly overlooked or underfollowed. When looking at the number of small-cap companies in the Russell 2000 and Russell 3000 index over the past decade, it reaffirms there are fewer attractive small-cap opportunities within the U.S. equity market for investors.

In 2008, the number of small-cap companies (market cap less than $500M) in the Russell 2000 index (small-cap benchmark) were 1,307. Just a decade later, that number has fallen 54% to just 603 companies. A similar trend can be seen in the Russell 3000 index (total market benchmark) with small-cap companies declining from 46% of the index in 2008 to just 20% of the index in 2018.

While attractive small-cap opportunities still exist in the U.S. equity market, true small-cap exposure is becoming more difficult for investors to obtain within their portfolios. If this trend persists, we expect investor capital to continue to seek out private market alternatives for this small-cap exposure.

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The opinions expressed herein are those of Marquette Associates, Inc. (“Marquette”), and are subject to change without notice. This material is not financial advice or an offer to purchase or sell any product. Marquette reserves the right to modify its current investment strategies and techniques based on changing market dynamics or client needs.

Megan Klassa
Research Associate

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