March is starting out differently than February, but it's still playing a familiar market theme: small-caps are again outperforming large-caps, contradicting the wide consensus of expectations from market strategists. During February, large-caps in the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 100 index did outperform their small-cap peers, as represented by the Russell 2000 index. The Dow rose 1.2% and the S&P 100 rose 0.3%, while the Russell fell 0.4%. But the wide array of market strategists calling for a return of large-cap outperformance, after years of small-cap outperformance, haven't yet won. Sure, the S&P 100 was up 1.8% and the Dow up 2.6% year to date through the end of February. And much fanfare has accompanied the Dow passing, and staying above, the key 11,000 level. But that all pales in comparison with the Russell's 8.5% gain through Feb.28. After February's underperformance, the index was again faring better than large-caps so far this week. The Russell was up 0.5% through Thursday's close, compared with a 0.3% drop for the Dow and a 0.04% gain for the S&P 100. That was even after the Russell's 0.3% drop on Thursday, which was a slightly bigger drop than for the other indices. The S&P 100 fell 0.2%. On Thursday, the Dow fell 28.02 points, or 0.25%, to 11,025.51. The S&P 500 fell 0.16% to 1289 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 0.15% to 2311. Google ( GOOG ) bucked the trend after its CEO reassured Wall Street about the firm's prospects. Disappointing retail-sales numbers for February and rising crude oil prices were behind the weakness seen Thursday. Specialty retailers Chico's FAS ( CHS), Abercrombie & Fitch ( ANF), Gap ( GPS) and New York & Co. ( NWY) were among the victims of a northeast blizzard (or changing fashion trends) that cut sales last month. To a large extent, the debate over small-caps vs. large-caps is one about the outlook for the U.S. economy. Those predicting that large-caps will outperform this year believe these stocks are cheap relative to smaller names and offer protection to investors if the economy slows.