The ETF Portfolio Strategist - Saturday, July 31

Signs of Life in Small-Caps

For a second straight week, small-cap shares rallied. The iShares Core S&P Small-Cap ETF (IJR) rose 1.7% for the week (through July 30), posting the strongest gain for our standard global opportunity set.

This could be the start of a revival after two months of relatively weak trending, but we’re not on board yet. For starters, the trend profile for IJR still looks shaky. Although small-caps are outperforming large caps (VTI) this year, IJR’s performance in 2021 has been erratic.

It doesn’t help that our in-house momentum indicator is in the gray zone for this fund. As shown in the table above, IJR’s MOM score is essentially neutral with a 60 print. That’s not horrible, but I’m inclined to stay cautious on the ETF for now.

Overall, it was a mixed week for asset classes on a global basis. Europe stocks had a good week — Vanguard FTSE Europe (VGK) rallied 1.0% and is posting a strong 90 MOM score, which suggests further gains are likely in the near-term.

US bonds continued to rally, thanks to the persistent but slowing decline in interest rates. The benchmark 10-year Treasury rate again slipped for the week, dropping to 1.24%, close to the five-month low set earlier in the month. Thursday’s substantially weaker-than-expected (but still strong) second-quarter GDP report helped prop up bond prices, and thereby drive down rates, albeit marginally.

In turn, iShares 7-10 Year Treasury Bond ETF (IEF) rose for a fifth straight week, closing near its highest level since February.

The deepest shade or red ink this week is concentrated in Asia stocks. The iShares MSCI All Country Asia ex Japan ETF (AAXJ) fell sharply this week, although the fund recovered a chunk of the losses from earlier in the week. Nonetheless, AAXJ closed down 2.4% at Friday’s close for the trading week. Year-to-date, the fund is in the red by nearly 2%. Even worse, AAXJ’s MOM score is a moderately bearish 30.

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For details on all the strategy rules and risk metrics, see this summary.

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