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The 2 'micro' companies powering the small-cap Russell 2000 this year: Chart of the Week

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We all know the “Magnificent Seven,” the current crop of megacaps that broke away from the S&P 500’s peloton of stocks. A group that has since dwindled to just four.

But the small-cap Russell 2000 index has its own pair of Magnificent members: “The Micros.”

Together, MicroStrategy (MSTR), the bitcoin proxy play led by the endlessly quotable Michael Saylor, and Super Micro Computer (SMCI), a cloud storage company riding the AI demand for more computing power, are responsible for single-handedly keeping the index’s year from going from bad to worse.

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The Russell is down well over 3% this year, and without these two stocks’ performance, it would be down around 7% as of Thursday, according to DataTrek. As DataTrek’s co-founder Nicholas Colas put it this week, “The Russell needs a few more meme-ish stocks, not fewer, if it is to start generating better returns.”

These numbers were even worse on Friday, as Super Micro fell as much as 19% after the company announced its earnings date but didn’t pre-announce earnings. A bit like being punished for showing up to a party on time but not sufficiently greeting and thanking the hosts.

Index concentration has been a running theme of market commentary since the Magnificent Seven emerged last year. The influence of the S&P 500’s top 10 stocks has now reached new highs on the index and has been surging above historical norms since 2019.

For the Russell, this concentration appears even more fragile when you consider the business behind the two ‘micro’ stars.

MicroStrategy has chained itself to the bow of the SS Bitcoin, with its CEO calling the world’s largest cryptocurrency the investment world’s "apex property" and maintaining that the company's "endgame is to acquire more bitcoin."

The scandal-prone Super Micro, which I wrote about two months ago, is essentially an offshoot of the Magnificent Seven’s AI focus, building customizable servers for the nascent technology.

As Colas rightly said, there is some meme stock energy at work here with off-brand AI and crypto. But there’s another key reminder here for investors, which is that this is actually how indexes are supposed to work.

A top-heavy index, the idea goes, is a tower built on sand, and investors should be waiting for the other shoe to drop. After all, how healthy can a stock market and economy be if the vast majority of companies are lagging the index?

Coming into the year, one of Wall Street’s favorite calls was a view that gains would broaden. As Josh Schafer wrote Friday, this call has been a bust so far.

But as we have covered for years, the point of an index is that sometimes one sector — or company, even — outperforms, and investors who buy the whole basket benefit just the same.

Moreover, in the S&P 500’s history, just a handful of stocks have frequently been responsible for the bulk of gains.

As Goldman Sachs equity strategist Ben Snider told us in February, “New companies grow, and they become larger weights in the index, and they drag the market higher with them.”

Or, in the case of the Russell 2000, they graduate to the big leagues.

Ethan Wolff-Mann is a Senior Editor at Yahoo Finance, running newsletters. Follow him on Twitter @ewolffmann.

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