Quick Take: Investing in small-cap growth companies can be challenging because few analysts follow them, and share prices tend to be volatile. Paul Graham and David Wabnik, managers of UBS US Small Cap Growth Fund (BNSCX), believe they can dampen these risks by keeping track of the setbacks that change small-cap growth stocks from doves into turkeys.
Performance data suggest that Graham and Wabnik have not only done well, but have held down volatility. For the three-year period through March, the fund surged an annualized 19.3%, while its peer group gained 6.1%. For the one-year period through March, the fund rose 12.6%, while its peers were up a modest 3.2%. The fund’s beta is 1.28, while the average for small-cap growth funds is 1.33.
Graham and Wabnik expect the economic recovery to favor small-cap growth stocks this year, although gains may be limited if the upturn proves to be mild.
The Full Interview
S&P: Small-cap stocks have done better than large-cap stocks in recent years. Do you think that will continue?
GRAHAM: Historically, small-caps have outperformed large-caps because the small-cap market is more inefficient. That hasn’t changed. Information about small-cap stocks isn’t as good as information about large-cap stocks, so investors demand higher returns for small-cap stocks because of the added risk and uncertainty. The average large-cap stock is covered by 20 to 25 analysts; the average small-cap stock has four to six analysts.
S&P: What’s your outlook for small-cap stocks overall and small-cap growth stocks in particular?
GRAHAM: Small-cap’s gains tend to run for five- to seven-year cycles, because it takes a while for institutional and retail money to shift from large-caps to small-caps. Since recoveries tend to favor small-caps and their valuations are still below historic averages, we think there is plenty of room for small-caps to grow.
Small-cap growth tends to outperform small-cap value in a recovery, according to most independent research that I’ve seen. Small-cap value has outperformed small-cap growth in the past two years, but that’s unprecedented and unreflective of the fundamentals of the two categories. Investors typically overreact in both directions, so I think we’ll see a reversion to the mean.
S&P: Do you think this recovery will affect small-cap growth stocks differently than previous recoveries?
GRAHAM: The only difference I see is this has been a very moderate recession. It could be that since we had a mild economic downturn, you won’t get as much strength coming out helping small-cap growth names.
S&P: What’s unique about UBS’s approach to small-cap growth investing?