Mid-cap ETFs are looking for their day in the sun, but they seem to escape the spotlight on Wall Street - even though they've outperformed small-cap and large-cap investments.
Loosely defined as including companies that have a market capitalization of between $2 billion and $10 billion, mid-caps occupy the "sweet spot" on Wall Street, lodged between small-caps and large-cap stocks and funds.
Historically, mid-caps have proven sweet for investors in a buy-and-hold investment strategy.
"A good amount of research has been done showing mid-caps can offer higher earnings growth potential," says Graham Day, head of product and research at Elkhorn Securities in Wheaton, Ill.
The problem is, most investors either aren't aware of mid-cap funds or choose not to include them in their investment portfolios. "Investors tend to construct their equity portfolios using a barbell approach and don't view mid-caps, i.e. "the middle", as something differentiated enough to add to their portfolios," says Day. "This means they will often construct their equity portfolios with large-caps (relative safety) and small-caps (as a lottery ticket), believing this to be a balanced portfolio resulting in a significant underweight to mid-caps."
"Research, however, has shown that mid-caps offer a unique stream of returns, different from large or small caps and exposure to companies uniquely positioned in the economic cycle," Day adds.
Day points to industry figures from ETF.com that show small-cap ETFs have $20 billion more in assets than mid-cap ETFs. "In addition, there are 48 ETFs in ETF.com's mid-cap category and 109 ETFs in their small-cap category," he adds.
Citing industry figures, Day says a $100 investment in mid-caps in 1979 would yield $10,882 today, versus only $6,911 in large caps and $6,031 in small caps.
Despite their relative anonymity, mid-cap ETFs aren't necessarily new, says Arturo Neto, Chief Investment Strategist, at Orenda Partners LLC, in Coral Gables, Fla.
"They just don't get the amount of press that large caps and small caps get," says Neto. "That's because large caps are the companies everyone knows, and small caps are the ones that can potentially provide the highest returns."
Neto doesn't buy the notion that mid-caps always outperform other investments, but he does say that mid-cap ETFs offer an interesting combination of characteristics inherent in both small and large caps. "For example, mid-cap companies usually have a unique combination of upside stock price potential with a modest dividend as a kicker," he says.
Also, many mid-cap companies are mature enough and financially stable enough to pay a dividend to shareholders, Neto says. "But because they are still relatively small compared to large caps, they also offer some of the upside potential inherent in small caps," he adds. "Essentially you may be getting the best of both worlds when investing in mid-caps."
So, if it's balance and performance you seek with your investments, mid-cap ETFs are worth a look. Some of the most common funds include iShares Russell Mid-Cap Growth ETF (IWF) - Get iShares Russell 1000 Growth ETF Report , Vanguard Mid-Cap Value Index Fund (VOE) - Get Vanguard Mid-Cap Value ETF Report , and iShares S&P Mid-Cap 400 Value ETF (IJJ) - Get iShares S&P Mid-Cap 400 Value ETF Report .
Talk to your financial advisor and see if mid-caps really can offer you access to that investment "sweet spot" money managers are talking about, more and more these days.