|Price-Earnings ratios as a predictor of twenty-year returns. From Irrational Exuberance, 2d ed. source (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Small cap stocks can be and have been subject to certain levels of risk. They can experience violent price swings and more than once they have fallen victim to fraudulent activity. However, they can also have a very attractive risk/reward ratio.
As a general rule, small-cap stocks come from companies that are relatively new to the public eye. While companies like Apple have a market cap that is quickly approaching $1 trillion, small cap stocks usually max out at now more than a few billion dollars. The Russel 2000 Index, for example, is the most commonly-used gauge for small cap stocks and it currently lists companies with market caps that range between about $144 million and $3.4 billion.
Small cap stocks are unique because they tend to rely on U.S. economic growth to be successful. They are usually more closely tied to the U.S. economy, including U.S. taxes and regulations, because they haven't yet reached the point of being internationally sought after stocks. This means they can be risky, but it also provides investors with the opportunity to see exponential gains in a short amount of time. The Russel 2000 Index, for example, rose 14% between November 2016 and January 2017 due to the political climate. For this reason a lot of investors see the value in diversifying their holdings and buying individual small cap stocks or small cap mutual funds.