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What are we looking for?

U.S.-listed small-cap stocks that look poised to outperform their large-cap cousins.

In the past few weeks, U.S. stocks have resumed their rally, edging up off their lows set in early April. Over the past quarter, small-cap stocks, represented by the Russell 2000 Index, have dramatically outperformed their larger-cap rivals in the S&P 500. While the S&P 500 is down 0.5 per cent in the past quarter, the Russell 2000 is up by 4.4 per cent, with 4.2 per cent of that coming in the past month. As the U.S. economy continues its expansion, small-cap stocks are expected to continue this recent outperformance.

The screen

We will be using Trading Central Strategy Builder to search for U.S.-listed small-cap stocks with strong revenue growth and operating margins along with reasonable valuations.

We will screen for U.S. stocks with a market capitalization between US$1-billion and US$4-billion. By comparison, the Russell 2000 constituents have a weighted average market cap of US$2.4-billion. To ensure we consider only well-valued candidates, we will filter to include only companies with forward price-to-earnings ratios of 25 or less.

To focus in on stocks that have demonstrated strong revenue growth and profitable operations, we will select only stocks with revenue growth (last quarter compared with prior year) of 15 per cent or more and operating margins (trailing 12 months) also of 15 per cent or more. Last, to further extend the theme of selecting small-cap outperformers, we will consider only stocks rated “strong buy” by a consensus of industry analysts, according to Morningstar data.

More about Trading Central

Trading Central is a global leader in financial market research and investment analytics for retail online brokers and institutions. Trading Central’s product suite provides actionable trading ideas based on technical and fundamental research covering stocks, ETFs, indexes, forex, options and commodities.

What we found

Ranking near the top is FTS International Inc., a Fort Worth, Tex.-based oil-services company. FTS has the highest quarterly revenue growth on our list at 119 per cent and the lowest forward P/E ratio at 4.5. The company’s stock price has appreciated significantly over the past month – more than 10.7 per cent – on the back of strong revenue and a surge in oil prices.

The largest company on our list is Canadian miner Kirkland Lake Gold Ltd., with a market capitalization of US$4-billion – the very top end of our screening range. The company’s stock is up 17 per cent in the past month on the back of strong quarterly results announced on May 2.

Trading Central Strategy Builder provides a back-testing capability to evaluate how well an investing strategy would have worked in the past. Using a five-year historical period with quarterly rebalancing, the screen described had a 25.4-per-cent annualized return compared with 10.5 per cent for the S&P 500 and 10.6 per cent for the Russell 2000 Index.

U.S.-listed small-caps poised for expansion

RankCompanyTickerConsensus Rec. (Current)Recent Price (US$)Market Cap. (US$Bil)P/E (This Year's Estimate)Rev. Growth (Last Qtr. vs. Prior Yr.)Operating Margin (TTM)Div. Yield
1Two Harbors Investment Corp.TWO-NStrong Buy15.552.78.258.5%56.3%12.0%
2FTS International Inc.FTSI-NStrong Buy21.812.44.5119.0%23.3%0.0%
3Ladder Capital Corp.LADR-NStrong Buy15.391.510.070.3%37.4%8.2%
4TCG BDC Inc.CGBD-QStrong Buy18.001.111.179.3%51.2%0.0%
5Nexa Resources SANEXA-NStrong Buy16.272.26.928.1%22.5%0.0%
6Kirkland Lake Gold Ltd.KL-NStrong Buy19.074.014.617.6%31.9%0.5%
7Kulicke & Soffa Industries Inc.KLIC-QStrong Buy22.231.613.442.8%17.0%0.0%
8Triumph Bancorp Inc.TBK-QStrong Buy40.401.115.036.2%27.8%0.0%
9Ebix Inc.EBIX-QStrong Buy73.952.320.336.8%30.4%0.4%

Source: Trading Central

The investment ideas presented here are for information only. They do not constitute advice or a recommendation by Trading Central in respect of the investment in financial instruments. Investors should conduct further research before investing.

Peter Ashton is vice-president of customer success at Trading Central.

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