We are often asked how much should be allocated to microcap equities. As long-term investors that view the opportunity set through the lens of factors, our answer is usually some version of "probably more than you currently do." There is little empirical research specific to the intricacies of microcaps, and common benchmarks cast a shadow on the alpha that is readily apparent in active manager returns and factor spreads. This post attempts to provide an alternative framework for approaching and sizing strategic allocations to microcaps.
The final installment in this micro cap series touches on the massive factor spreads available in the micro cap space, structural biases that keep large investors out, and an argument for the persistence of factor returns.
Investing in micro caps poses a challenge for stock pickers. There's lots of noise in the data and, as we saw in the previous post, investing in micro caps requires expertise in many different types of investment situations—venture, growth, distressed, etc. This post attempts to cut through some of the noise inherent in micro caps to level the playing field.
For this post, I define the opportunity set of micro caps a bit differently than common benchmarks. I discuss some of the fundamental drivers of micro cap businesses and how their stage in the business life-cycle can distort fundamental metrics. Historically, 41% of the universe is in some sort of transition—evolving to new heights or devolving towards liquidation—which creates lots of noise in the data, and scares lots of investors away.
I've recently been exploring the world of micro cap stock investing. You don't hear much about this space except from the occasional banner ad promising a 10,000% return in a week by buying penny stocks. So I think micro cap gets a bad wrap. This is the first installment in a series on micro cap stocks. This area of the market is a playground for disciplined investors that believe in the power of factors.
There is one trend in particular that I have been watching—the relationship between bond yields and equity valuations. Traditionally, there is a somewhat positive relationship between the two, but massive monetary policy intervention has thrown everything out of whack.
Does the economic cycle have any bearing on investment success? Macro investment houses have constructed intricate frameworks to understand the “economic machine,” but economic data are notoriously prone to revisions, lags, and adjustments in measurement through time—none of which are suitable for timely and reliable investment signals. Certain fundamental characteristics—not economic variables—drive stock returns. This piece identifies investment themes that deliver persistent outperformance in multiple different economic environments.
In my last two posts, I explored a fad which has washed over the investment community--low volatility investing. In my first post, I looked at the historical performance oflow volatility stocks and found outperformance to be inconsistent. I then established in my last post that Low Volatility investing is likely just value investing in re-packaged, and expertly marketed, form. In this final post, I relate the finding to the popular USMV ETF.
In a previous post, I looked at the historical performance of investing in low volatility stocks and identified that outperformance from the factor tends not to be very consistent over time, but is instead clustered. That raised some questions on whether volatility is a true investment factor, or if it's positive benefits are the product of other, more robust, investment factors.
The Fed is in quite a predicament. Economic cycles typically last seven to ten years. The current cycle will be seven years old in early 2016. Humans have known of this cyclical pattern quite literally since the Book of Genesis--seven years of fat, seven years of famine. At some point, the current bull will yield to a bear market as all bull markets have.