Style and capitalization ETFs

Style is a widely used term to define a particular investment approach. Different styles have different historical risk-reward characteristics. Mixing styles in an individual’s portfolio is often recommended as a means to achieve diversity and improve performance.

Style ETFs are designed to track a particular investment style and/or asset class. Asset class ETFs include small-cap, medium-cap, and large-cap stocks. Investment style ETFs include value and growth. The market cap and investment style can be combined into approaches, such as small-cap value, large-cap growth, and so on.

Small, mid, large cap

Briefly, a large-cap stock refers to a company with a market capitalization of more than $10 billion. A mid-cap stock refers to a company with a market cap between $2 billion and $10 billion. And a small-cap stock generally refers to a company with a market cap of $300 million to $2 billion.

Market cap performance varies over time. Looking at market history, small- and mid-cap stocks have tended to outperform large-cap stocks for extended periods of time. However, the performance differential is small and has completely evaporated during certain periods.

To the degree that there is a performance bias in favor of small-cap stocks, 3 explanations are offered: (1) Small-cap stocks are disproportionately held by smaller investors who often sell stock late in the calendar year for tax reasons. Accordingly, after the late year sell-off, small-cap stocks tend to rebound in January. This is known as the January effect. (2) Small-cap companies are more likely to go out of business and thus the indexes tracking small-cap stocks are over-weighted with the stronger companies that have survived. (3) Small-cap companies are the growth engine of the economy and a small number generate extraordinary earnings growth, lifting the entire category.

Investors should be aware that many leading equity indexes such as the S&P 500, the Russell 1000 and the Russell 3000 are constructed via a market capitalization method which means they tend to be top-heavy in large-cap market stocks. Thus, they will perform better when large caps are doing well and will suffer when small- and mid-cap stocks are outperforming larger stocks. To strike more of a balance between capitalization sectors in an index fund an investor may want to consider index funds constructed via an "equal weight" method, which gives equal weight to small and large companies.

There are hundreds of ETFs to choose from in each of the market cap categories: small, mid, and large. You can customize a portfolio to achieve equal balance between market cap categories or to weight your portfolio to a particular sector. Given historic performance tendencies, a long-term investor may want to consider weighting their portfolio slightly toward small- and mid-cap sectors, although investors should always remember that past performance is not indicative of future results.

Value versus growth

Value versus growth investing styles have generated many arguments and much research among investors as to which is the better approach.

Value investors buy companies whose shares appear to be underpriced relative to the company's financial performance as reflected in the company's price-to-earnings ratio, dividend yield, or price-to-book ratio. The most famous value investor in recent times is Warren Buffett.

Growth investors focus on companies that are growing at a fast rate and are expected to generate earnings growth in excess of the overall market and their industry sector. Peter Lynch, who achieved spectacular results as manager of Fidelity's Magellan Fund, coined the phrase "growth at a reasonable price" which was something of a hybrid of the value and growth approach.

Vanguard CEO John Bogle, in his book Common Sense on Mutual Funds, studied performance data for mutual funds from 1937–1997 and concluded that: "For the full 60-year period, the compound total returns were: growth 11.7%; value 11.5%—a tiny difference." Bogle updated the data through May 2006 and reported a performance differential of just .03%, again a paltry amount.

But while over long periods of time, the performance differential of investment styles tends to converge, there are shorter periods where one style substantially outperforms another style. Investors nimble enough to overweight their portfolios to those styles can generate market-beating returns.

While style ETFs enable investors to weight their portfolios in favor of a particular investment style, it should be noted that picking winning investment styles is very difficult. Perhaps the chief value that style ETFs bring to investors is the ability to balance their style exposures in way that maximizes risk-adjusted growth.

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Article copyright 2011-2024 by David H. Fry, Richard A. Ferri, and Mitch Zacks. Reprinted and adapted from Create Your Own Hedge Fund, The ETF Book, and The Little Book of Stock Market Profits with permission from John Wiley & Sons, Inc. The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. Fidelity Investments® cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of any statements or data. This reprint and the materials delivered with it should not be construed as an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy shares of any funds mentioned in this reprint. The data and analysis contained herein are provided "as is" and without warranty of any kind, either expressed or implied. Fidelity is not adopting, making a recommendation for or endorsing any trading or investment strategy or particular security. All opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice, and you should always obtain current information and perform due diligence before trading. Consider that the provider may modify the methods it uses to evaluate investment opportunities from time to time, that model results may not impute or show the compounded adverse effect of transaction costs or management fees or reflect actual investment results, and that investment models are necessarily constructed with the benefit of hindsight. For this and for many other reasons, model results are not a guarantee of future results. The securities mentioned in this document may not be eligible for sale in some states or countries, nor be suitable for all types of investors; their value and the income they produce may fluctuate and/or be adversely affected by exchange rates, interest rates or other factors.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Exchange-traded products (ETPs) are subject to market volatility and the risks of their underlying securities, which may include the risks associated with investing in smaller companies, foreign securities, commodities, and fixed income investments. Foreign securities are subject to interest rate, currency exchange rate, economic, and political risks, all of which are magnified in emerging markets. ETPs that target a small universe of securities, such as a specific region or market sector, are generally subject to greater market volatility, as well as to the specific risks associated with that sector, region, or other focus. ETPs that use derivatives, leverage, or complex investment strategies are subject to additional risks. The return of an index ETP is usually different from that of the index it tracks because of fees, expenses, and tracking error. An ETP may trade at a premium or discount to its net asset value (NAV) (or indicative value in the case of exchange-traded notes). The degree of liquidity can vary significantly from one ETP to another and losses may be magnified if no liquid market exists for the ETP's shares when attempting to sell them. Each ETP has a unique risk profile, detailed in its prospectus, offering circular, or similar material, which should be considered carefully when making investment decisions.

All indexes are unmanaged, and performance of the indexes includes reinvestment of dividends and interest income, unless otherwise noted. Indexes are not illustrative of any particular investment, and it is not possible to invest directly in an index.

ETFs may trade at a discount to their NAV and are subject to the market fluctuations of their underlying investments. ETFs are subject to management fees and other expenses. 604524.7.0