The Signal That Could Mean Full Steam Ahead for Small Caps

The Russell 2000 Index (RUT) -- widely considered the small-cap barometer -- is set to extend its rally to an incredible 11 days

by Kirra Fedyszyn

Published on Nov 18, 2016 at 3:26 PM

After rallying to fresh record highs in the wake of last week's election results, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) has finally stalled out in recent days. But while the large-cap index is hitting the brakes, the Russell 2000 Index (RUT) -- the benchmark for small-cap stocks -- is on track to finish higher for the 11th consecutive session, and just notched its own all-time peak. Last week, we took a look at how the index has historically performed after 4- and 5-day win streaks; we'll now take a look at how the RUT has performed after double-digit win streaks, and explore whether this rare feat could signal sustained momentum for small caps.

According to Schaeffer's Senior Quantitative Analyst Rocky White, the RUT hasn't enjoyed an 11-day winning streak since June 2003, and the index's gains over its current incredible rally now clock in at roughly 13.4% -- the biggest return since 1991. In the table below, we've listed all RUT winning streaks of 10 days or more, going back to 1990. 

RUT 10 day win streaks Nov 18

As you can see, this signal has occurred just 19 previous times over the period, and more than half of those rallies stopped out after 10 days. The last streak to surpass 11 days occurred more than 13 years ago, when RUT won 12 days in a row, gaining 11.9% -- smaller than the gains the current win streak has already accumulated. The longest-ever winning streak dates back to 1988, at 21 straight days in the black.

So, do these monster gains over a short period translate in more upward momentum? In the following tables, we've compared the RUT's returns after an 11-day win streak to RUT's anytime returns, going back 1979. 

RUT returns after 11 day win streak Nov 18

The index's outperformance following an 11-day win streak starts after a single day, with RUT gaining an average 0.3%, compared to 0.03% returns anytime. And the farther we get out from the signal, the largest the difference in returns becomes. One month after an 11-day win streak, RUT has returned an average 3.5%, and is positive a whopping 88.9% of the time. Meanwhile, the anytime one-month returns are just 0.9%, on average, and positive 61.2% of the time. What's more, standard deviation -- a measure of the RUT's volatility -- is also consistently lower after a win streak of 11 days or more.

Finally, we've compiled a table of the 12 longest RUT win streaks to date. As alluded to earlier, the longest ever win streak, in March 1988, extended 21 sessions -- roughly one full month -- though the whole streak ultimately ushered the RUT 13.1% higher, or slightly less than we've seen in the past 11 days. And though the larger win streaks did not necessarily translate to the largest gains in the following weeks, it's worth noting that RUT was positive one month out 83% of the time.

RUT longest win streaks Nov 18

In conclusion, the Russell 2000 Index (RUT) tends to outperform after win streaks of 11 days or more. Last week's worries over whether the index had gone too far too fast seem to be well behind us, and history suggests a lower-volatility churn higher could be ahead for the small-cap index.

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