For decades, analysts have heralded small-capstocks as the real
growers in thestock market . And they're right to some extent; a
study that tracked stock returns from 1926 to 2008 found that U.S.
small caps delivered an annualized return of 16.5% compared to
large caps' annualized return of 12.9%.
But that doesn'tmean investors are dumping their large-cap
stocks -- big, stable companies like
-- in favor of lesser-known small-cap companies (those that are
smaller and presumably faster-growing).
In fact, just looking at the entire U.S. stockmutual fund market
as of Sept. 30, 2012, investors held a whopping 75% of all assets
($2.6 trillion) in large-capequity mutual funds. That dwarfs the
15% ($507 billion) investors held in mid-capfunds and the 10% ($360
billion) held in U.S. small-cap funds.
So why are investors using large caps as the backbone of their
Because most of them have learned, sometimes reluctantly, that
large companies have something small companies don't have: deep
pockets and stability.
Through recessions, wars and market crashes, large companies
have been a proven long-term source of both safety and impressive
gains. Just look at how these companies fared over the past 31
Want to know exactly how large companies such as these make
solid, long-terminvestments ? It all comes down to three main
advantages that large-cap companies have over their smaller company
Large-Cap Stocks Advantage #1: Less Long-Term Risk For A
Most investors have heard of the trade-off between risk and
reward. But while most investors are focused solely on the return
portion of the equation, they can get blindsided by return's
conjoined twin: risk.
Risk is measured by thestandard deviation of returns.
Essentially, standard deviation tells us how widely a security's
returns are scattered around its average return. It's how you
measure volatility. Clearly, afund that is up 40% one year and down
20% the next is more volatile (and thus has a higher standard
deviation) than one that gains 12% one year and loses 6% the
Recalling the 1926 to 2008investment study mentioned earlier,
small-cap stocks delivered an annual return of 16.5%, beating out
large caps' return of 12.9%. But small caps' standard deviation was
significantly higher -- 33% versus large caps' standard deviation
In this case, small-cap investors may have been rewarded with an
extra 3.6% annual return, but they also took on an extra 12.4% of
risk. That's sort of like driving fast and recklessly around tight
corners to get to the store just a few minutes earlier than you
would have if you drove safely -- it's dangerous, and the reward
may not be worth it. Large-cap stocksoffer investors a way to shed
some of that excessive risk and still keep most of the healthy
Large-Cap Stocks Advantage #2: Iron Defense During
It's been said many times, but it bears repeating:Cash is king.
A large-cap company's cash hoard is a great defense against a
stagnant or decliningeconomy . If the company faces headwinds, it
can always use its cash reserves to keep operations running until
the economy rebounds. It's a lifeline of staying power and a luxury
that most small-cap companies don't have.
In addition, larger companies are equipped with proven business
models, establishedmarket exposure and brand-name recognition --
qualities that make them more likely to stand the test of time --
and deliver excellent returns for investors over the long term.
That explains why large-cap stocks fall far less during market
downturns. From 1969 to 1970, small caps tumbled 38% while the
large-cap S&P 500 fell just 5%.
And while both large and small caps declined by a similar amount
from the recent market peak in May 2008 to the crash's low in March
2009 (dropping 52.8% vs. 53.5%, respectively), the most elite of
the large-cap stocks -- theblue chips of theDow Jones Industrial
Average (DJIA) -- fell a less painful 39.8%.
Don't worry, patient investors who held on to their large-cap
stocks after the 2008-2009 market crash didn't have to suffer
losses for long -- the S&P 500index (which tracks 500 large-cap
stocks) bounced right back and recouped the bulk of its value by
April 2010, just over one year later. That's because large,
valuable companies stay valuable to investors even in bad
Large-Cap Stocks Advantage #3: A Stockpile of Resources
For Strong Future Growth
Even more important than a defense mechanism, a large company's
cash hoard and other existing capital (plants, property, technology
and special equipment) can be its greatest weapons for adaptability
and future growth.
Large companies with multibillion-dollar war chests have used
their greenbacks and other resources in a number of ways to expand
their businesses and keep their shareholders happy. In 2011, for
used $10 billion to buy back companyshares , increasing itsearnings
per share (
) and strengthening the stock's value.
Bristol-Myers Squibb (
transferred $750 million from cash reserves to pay down debt and
decreasedefault risk . The company has also been using cash to
invest in research and development to develop new lines of
life-saving drugs -- and potentially boostrevenues .
Microsoft invested $8.5 billion of its cash to acquire Skype,
expanding its already diverse product line, market exposure and
potentially top and bottom lines. It also decided to boost
itsdividend payment by 25%.
What's behind a dividend payment increase?
A company announcing that itwill increase the size of its dividend
payment to shareholders signals that management is confident about
its future success. After Microsoft's large dividend raise in 2011,
the company essentially promised to pay shareholders a full 29% of
all its profits every year. Think about it on a personal basis:
Would you promise to commit nearly a third of your income toward
anobligation if you didn't feel confident about your financial
success in the future? Probably not.
Consistent dividend raises, stock buybacks, acquisitions and
heavy investments in R&D are unique features that mostly only
large-cap companies with incredibleearnings and strength can
provide. And they're all more reasons why many investors love
holding onto large-cap stocks.
Action to Take -->
While it's smart for investors to diversify their investments,
large-cap stocks can provide a solid foundation for growth and
defense in almost anyone's retirement portfolio. In our latest
research --ticker symbols ,
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These excellent qualities make for a solid investment that
offers steady double-digit returns without all the gut-wrenching
price movements that come with holding small-cap stocks.
This article originally appeared on InvestingAnswers.com:
Why Smart Investors
Are Pouring Trillions into This Type Of Stock
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