The Russell 2000 is performing terribly — why that could be bad news for the stock market : Morning Brief

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Monday, February 7, 2022

Bigger isn’t always better.

Case in point: Lots of trading desks are locked in on the dramatic underperformance of the small-cap Russell 2000 Index amid the bounce-back in broader stocks from the late January lows. The Russell 2000 — which is often viewed a proxy for the strength (or lack thereof) of the domestic economy — is down 10.5% this year compared to a 6% drop for the S&P 500 and 3.6% decline for the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

The Russell 2000 has lagged the S&P 500 by 25 percentage points in the past 12 months, its worst 12-month relative return since 1999, notes Goldman Sachs’ David Kostin.

“Decelerating GDP growth has been one headwind to the cyclical small-cap index. During the last 20 years, small-caps have lagged on average in periods when the yield curve was flattening, economic growth was strong but decelerating, or financial conditions were tightening,” Kostin says.

Traders are now trying to determine whether the weakness in the Russell 2000 suggests another pullback in the markets is in the offing. After all, larger cap stocks are exposed to the same things (tightening financial conditions, higher interest rates, inflation, etc.) as smaller companies.

The Russell 2000 has fallen below a key support level.

“The small cap Russell 2000 has been a “canary in the coal mine” for stocks for much of the past year — first warning softly as small cap momentum peaked along with other areas of euphoric sentiment in 1Q21 even as large caps continued to rise, and then more urgently as its breakdown from a year long range led the broader market lower. As stocks bounce from their January slide, though, small caps have shown signs of sputtering below their prior support. Floors can often become resistant when broken, and with the Russell 2000’s recent track record as a leading indicator for broader market weakness, we will be watching the reaction to this level closely. Failure…


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