An asset class often overlooked by investors is micro-cap stocks; also known as the lottery stocks. I refer to them as lottery stocks because when an investor buys a micro-cap stock, it can be considered similar to buying a lottery ticket.
The definition of a micro-cap stock varies depending on where you look, but on average any stock with a market capitalization below $300 million will fall into the category. This makes investing in micro-cap stocks more risky than their peers, because micro caps are typically in their infancy stage or on their way down from being a larger company at one point.

IN PICTURES: 20 Tools For Building Up Your Portfolio

I feel there is room for micro-cap stocks in your portfolio, and this can be accomplished in one of two ways. The first option is to buy an ETF composed of a large basket of micro-cap stocks and track the entire asset class. The second, and more risky of the two, is to buy an individual micro-cap stock that has the fundamentals and technicals behind it.

Microcap ETFs
Currently three ETFs invest in the micro-cap sector: iShares Russell Micro-cap Index ETF (NYSE: IWC), PowerShares Zacks Mico-cap ETF (NYSE: PZI) and the First Trust Dow Jones Micro-cap ETF (NYSE: FDM). Of the three micro-cap ETFs, IWC is the most popular with the majority of assets in the sector. IWC is composed of over 1,300 micro-cap stocks, and the largest holding, Dana Holdings (NYSE: DAN), only makes up 0.7 percent of the entire portfolio. The diversification removes any company-specific risk that may be associated with a typical micro-cap stock.

To give you an idea of how IWC has performed versus the other asset classes, we can look at the last few years. Year-to-date in 2010, IWC is up 5 percent as the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (NYSE: SPY) fell 2 percent. In 2009, the SPY gained 23 percent and IWC gained 22 percent. During the rough year of 2008, the SPY fell 38 percent and IWC tumbled 40 percent. The numbers show the micro-cap stocks following the overall market recently, but that will not always be the case.

Stock-Picking Micros
After analyzing a large number of the stocks in the micro-cap sector, it was clear that an overwhelming number of them are junior biotech and medical equipment companies. This type of investing can be very risky as well as lucrative. The four stocks I chose are all included in IWC's allocation, and keep in mind they may have a market cap above $300 million at this time as they have grown over the last year.

Penwest Pharmaceutical (Nasdaq: PPCO) is a true micro cap with a market cap of only $110 million that focuses on drug development. Its proprietary drug delivery system could be the product that helps launch the company, but along with the reliance on one product comes big risk. The stock fell as low as 37 cents in 2008 and has since been in an uptrend to the $3.50 area.

DexCom (Nasdaq: DXCM) is also in the healthcare sector, a maker of medical devices that offer continuous monitoring of glucose for people with or without diabetes. The device is used by patients at home or by medical professionals. The stock hit a multi-year high recently and technically is very strong.

Terremark Worldwide (Nasdaq: TMRK) provides IT infrastructure services around the globe and is often considered a cloud computing stock. The company has recently inked deals in Europe and Latin America as it continues to expand, and the stock price has not disappointed.

Support.Com (Nasdaq: SPRT) helps businesses with technology issues via the internet and telephone. Sounds like a great business plan considering the issues my company runs into on a consistent basis. The volume has also picked up for the stock as it recently hit a new two-year high. (For related reading, check out How To Evaluate A Micro-Cap Company.)

Keep in mind the high risk with the four individual stocks, and if you are not the type of investor that can stomach a large loss, I suggest you go with IWC for your exposure to lottery-ticket stocks. (For more, see Finding Undiscovered Stocks.)

Use the Investopedia Stock Simulator to trade the stocks mentioned in this stock analysis, risk free!

Related Articles
  1. Stock Analysis

    Starbucks: Profiting One Cup at a Time (SBUX)

    Starbucks is everywhere. But is it a worthwhile business? Ask the shareholders who've made it one of the world's most successful companies.
  2. Stock Analysis

    How Medtronic Makes Money (MDT)

    Here's the story of an American medical device firm that covers almost every segment in medicine and recently moved to Ireland to pay less in taxes.
  3. Investing News

    Latest Labor Numbers: Good News for the Market?

    Some economic numbers are indicating that the labor market is outperforming the stock market. Should investors be bullish?
  4. Investing News

    Stocks with Big Dividend Yields: 'It's a Trap!'

    Should you seek high yielding-dividend stocks in the current investment environment?
  5. Investing News

    Should You Be Betting with Buffett Right Now?

    Following Warren Buffett's stock picks has historically been a good strategy. Is considering his biggest holdings in 2016 a good idea?
  6. Products and Investments

    Cash vs. Stocks: How to Decide Which is Best

    Is it better to keep your money in cash or is a down market a good time to buy stocks at a lower cost?
  7. Investing News

    Who Does Cheap Oil Benefit? See This Stock (DG)

    Cheap oil won't benefit most companies, but this retailer might buck that trend.
  8. Investing

    How to Ballast a Portfolio with Bonds

    If January and early February performance is any guide, there’s a new normal in financial markets today: Heightened volatility.
  9. Stock Analysis

    Performance Review: Emerging Markets Equities in 2015

    Find out why emerging markets struggled in 2015 and why a half-decade long trend of poor returns is proving optimistic growth investors wrong.
  10. Investing

    Don't Freak Out Over Black Swans; Be Prepared

    Could 2016 be a big year for black swans? Who knows? Here's what black swans are, how they can devastate the unprepared, and how the prepared can emerge unscathed.
RELATED FAQS
  1. When does a growth stock turn into a value opportunity?

    A growth stock turns into a value opportunity when it trades at a reasonable multiple of the company's earnings per share ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. What is the formula for calculating EBITDA?

    When analyzing financial fitness, corporate accountants and investors alike closely examine a company's financial statements ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. How do I calculate the P/E ratio of a company?

    The price-earnings ratio (P/E ratio) is a valuation measure that compares the level of stock prices to the level of corporate ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. How do you calculate return on equity (ROE)?

    Return on equity (ROE) is a ratio that provides investors insight into how efficiently a company (or more specifically, its ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. How do you calculate working capital?

    Working capital represents the difference between a firm’s current assets and current liabilities. The challenge can be determining ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What is the formula for calculating the current ratio?

    The current ratio is a financial ratio that investors and analysts use to examine the liquidity of a company and its ability ... Read Full Answer >>
COMPANIES IN THIS ARTICLE
Trading Center