Micro Cap – Q3 2023 Commentary

Market Review

The Russell Microcap® Index declined 7.93% in the third quarter of 2023, as investors focused on the risks associated with the rapid rise in interest rates.  Companies with meaningful exposure to big ticket capital projects and those with higher corporate debt levels have become increasingly out of favor.  We continue to see inventory destocking in certain sectors weigh on demand, but many companies have been able to navigate this phenomenon effectively.

The only sector in the Russell Microcap® with a positive return in the quarter was Energy, which gained 18.50%, largely driven by the appreciation in oil prices.  The other 10 sectors all declined, with Information Technology (down 18.09%) and Health Care (down 17.37%) the biggest laggards.  Banks delivered a slightly positive return in the quarter, up 1.28%.

Performance Recap

The KCM Microcap Composite declined 7.68% (gross of fees) and 7.89% (net of fees) in Q3, outperforming the Russell Microcap® Index by 25 basis points (gross) and 4 basis points (net). Both stock selection and sector allocation were largely immaterial on a relative basis in the quarter, as favorable stock selection in Industrials (+98 bps) was offset by Communication Services (-38 bps), Health Care (-37 bps) and Real Estate (-37 bps).   On an overall basis, the Industrials sector was the best relative performer, adding 130 bps to performance, while Consumer Discretionary weighed (51 bps detraction). For 2023 year-to-date, the Microcap strategy has declined 0.96% (gross of fees) and 1.62% (net of fees), outperforming the Russell Microcap Index by 484 bps and 418 bps, respectively. Additional performance information is included in the table below.

Data as of 9/30/2023

Outlook

On balance, our conversations with management teams during the third quarter were positive.  With the exception of a few industries, opportunities for growth exist, companies continue to take actions to drive operational improvements, and labor and supply chain constraints are either being dealt with more effectively or are in fact lessening. 

The rapid rise in interest rates, however, has caused equity investors to turn increasingly bearish.  We have managed through cycles before and have experienced situations where the market reacts to a coming economic slowdown more quickly than is visible to industry participants.  We think there is a distinct possibility that this may in fact be the situation the US economy is facing today. 

Confidence in our portfolio comes from key areas of exposure where we anticipate little slowdown (commercial aerospace stands out given the preceding period of underinvestment) and from the company-specific drivers of value creation that we tend to focus on with stock selection.  As we highlighted last quarter, a more difficult demand backdrop can force difficult decisions at companies that lead to the value-enhancing restructuring actions or turnaround efforts that we gravitate to as we source new ideas.

As always, we thank you for your support, and please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns. 

Sincerely,

Christian McDonald, CFA®

Chief Investment Officer & Portfolio Manager

Sean McMahon

Portfolio Manager

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Important Disclosures

Kennedy Capital Management LLC (“KCM”) is a Delaware limited liability company headquartered in Missouri.  KCM is registered as an investment adviser with the Securities and Exchange Commission under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. Registration with the SEC does not imply any level of skill or training. Clients of the Firm include U.S. corporations, pension and profit sharing funds, colleges and universities, trusts, not-for-profit organizations, foundations, and individuals. KCM claims compliance with the Global Investment Performance Standards (GIPS®). GIPS® is a registered trademark of CFA Institute. CFA Institute does not endorse or promote this organization, nor does it warrant the accuracy or quality of the content. GIPS® are a set of standardized, industry-wide ethical principles that provide investment firms with guidance on calculating and reporting their investment results to prospective clients to ensure fair representation and full disclosure of an investment firm’s performance history.

 Although the statements of fact and data in this report have been obtained from, and are based upon, sources that the Firm believes to be reliable, we do not guarantee their accuracy, and any such information may be incomplete or condensed. All opinions included in this report constitute the Firm’s judgment as of the date of this report and are subject to change without notice. This report is for informational purposes only and is not intended as an offer or solicitation with respect to the purchase or sale of any security. A complete list of all securities recommended by KCM in the preceding year, a full compliant GIPS Composite Report, and the list of composite descriptions are available upon request from KCM at 10829 Olive Blvd., Suite 100. St. Louis, MO, 63141.

The Micro Cap Composite invests primarily in micro cap companies (market cap generally in line with Russell Microcap® index market caps) which have strong intrinsic value. For comparison purposes the composite is measured against the Russell Microcap® Index. The U.S. Dollar is the currency used to express performance.

Composite specific data provided within this presentation has been calculated from accounts that are discretionary as defined in this paragraph. The assets shown are derived only from discretionary accounts. Non-discretionary accounts, as defined by KCM, are accounts that are not included in the composite due to one or any combination of the following criteria: there were significant cash inflows or outflows within the account; the account’s asset level did not meet the minimum requirement to remain in the composite; the account assets are managed by others using our non-discretionary model. The temporary removal of such an account occurs at the beginning of the month and the account re-enters the composite the month after the criteria has been met.

Performance returns are presented gross and net of investment advisory fees and include the reinvestment of all income. Gross of fee returns reflect the deduction of transaction costs and custodian fees but do not reflect the deduction of investment advisory fees. Net of fee performance is calculated using gross returns less the actual applicable annual management fee applied monthly. Past performance is not indicative of future results. A client’s return will be reduced by the advisory fees as described in Form ADV Part 2A and other expenses incurred by the account. For example, an annual advisory fee of 1% compounded quarterly over 10 years will reduce a gross 14.44% annual return to a net 13.32% annual return. Form ADV Part 2A is available upon request.

The performance figures reported herein are unaudited, may be based upon information obtained via electronic data sources (”feeds”) and may be subject to change. Data feeds from many of KCM clients’ selected custodians are obtained through third party sources, and are used to compare custodial data to KCM’s client account records as frequently as daily. Monthly, KCM reviews clients’ account holdings along with cash and share quantities against the custodial statements. In some instances, variances may exist between final audited custodial information and the information KCM obtains via such data feeds. Generally, any such variances are researched and reconciled within thirty days of the period end.

The information provided should not be considered a recommendation to purchase or sell any particular security. There is no assurance that any securities discussed herein will remain in a KCM portfolio at the time you receive this letter or that securities sold have not been repurchased. Allocations among industries, sectors and securities may vary and are subject to change without notice. Any securities discussed do not represent an account’s entire portfolio and, in the aggregate, may represent only a small percentage of an account’s portfolio holdings. It should not be assumed that any of the industry or sector allocation decisions mentioned, or securities transactions or holdings discussed were or will be profitable, or that the investment recommendations or decisions we make in the future will be profitable or will equal the investment performance of the securities discussed herein.

Sector Weightings are subject to change at any time.  Sectors are based on the Global Industry Classification Standard (”GICS”) classification scheme. Both are measured as a percentage of the total composite in terms of asset value as of the date indicated above. Individual client portfolios may be different based on variations in security purchase price and date, and individual client restrictions.

GICS was developed by and is the exclusive property and a service mark of Morgan Stanley Capital International, Inc. (”MSCI”) and Standard & Poor’s, a division of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. (”S&P”) and is licensed for the use by KCM. Neither MSCI, S&P, nor any other party involved in making or compiling the GICS or any GICS classifications makes any express or implied warranties or representations with respect to such standard or classification (or the results thereof),and all such parties hereby expressly disclaim all warranties of originality, accuracy, completeness, merchantability, and fitness for a particular purpose with respect to any of such standard or classification. Without limiting any of the foregoing, in no event shall MSCI, S&P, any of their affiliates or any third party involved in making or compiling the GICS or any GICS classifications have any liability for any direct, indirect, special, punitive, consequential or any other damages (including lost profits) even if notified of the possibility of such damages.

Allocations to various assets classes change over time and deviate from any stated or targeted percentages of a total portfolio as a result of market conditions and reallocation decisions. Therefore, nothing herein reflects a static portfolio allocation that will remain the same or match stated target allocations of asset classes.

Russell Investment Group is the source and owner of the Russell Index data contained or reflected in this material and all trademarks and copyrights related thereto. The presentation may contain confidential information and unauthorized use, disclosure, copying, dissemination or redistribution is strictly prohibited. This is a presentation of KCM. Russell Investment Group is not responsible for the formatting or configuration of this material or for any inaccuracy in KCM’s presentation thereof.

The Russell Microcap® Index measures the performance of the microcap segment of the U.S. equity universe. Microcap stocks make up less than 2% of the U.S. equity market (by market cap, as of the most recent reconstitution) and consist of the smallest 1,000 securities in the small-cap Russell 2000® Index, plus the next 1,000 smallest eligible securities by market cap. The Russell Microcap® Index is constructed to provide a comprehensive and unbiased barometer for the microcap segment trading on national exchanges, while excluding lesser-regulated OTC bulletin board securities and pink-sheet stocks due to their failure to meet national exchange listing requirements. The Index is completely reconstituted annually to ensure new and growing equities are reflected and companies continue to reflect appropriate capitalization and value characteristics.

The Russell Microcap® is used as the benchmark. The Index is unmanaged and represents total returns including reinvestment of dividends. The benchmark is used for comparative purposes only and generally reflects the comparable risk or investment style of the Firm’s strategy. The investment portfolios underlying the Index are different from the investments in the portfolios managed by the Firm. Certain accounts may also use other benchmarks not listed in the GIPS composite report. The Verification and Performance Examination Report does not cover the benchmark returns included in the GIPS composite report.