Royce Value Trust Manager Commentary
article 12-31-2016

Royce Value Trust Manager Commentary

Portfolio Manager Chuck Royce and Assistant Portfolio Managers Lauren Romeo and Chris Flynn believe that cyclicals look well-positioned for ongoing leadership. In addition to their usual cyclical tilt, they are looking in some defensive areas such as healthcare. It is very much on a stock-by-stock basis, with a focus on individual companies that combine attractive valuations with strong fundamentals.

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Fund Performance

Royce Value Trust (NYSE: RVT) advanced 26.8% on a net asset value ("NAV") basis and 23.5% on a market price basis in 2016, compared to respective increases of 21.3% and 26.5% for its unleveraged small-cap benchmarks, the Russell 2000 and S&P SmallCap 600 Indexes, for the same period. In such a strong year for small-cap stocks, we were pleased with the Fund's terrific absolute and relative NAV showing.

RVT's multi-themed core approach served investors well during a year in which factors such as low valuation, liquidity, low volatility, and quality all outperformed within the Russell 2000. Calendar-year performance was even more gratifying in light of the questions both active management and value oriented approaches were facing between 2011 and 2015, which made the year feel very much like a validation for our approach.

The Fund outperformed during the first half of 2016, gaining 8.2% on an NAV basis and 4.4% based on market price versus respective gains of 2.2% and 6.2% for the Russell 2000 and S&P SmallCap 600. The second half was stronger on an absolute basis but less so on a relative scale. During this period, RVT rose 17.3% based on NAV and 18.3% based on its market price compared to 18.7% for the Russell 2000 and 19.1% for the S&P SmallCap 600. Looking at longer-term periods, we were pleased that RVT outpaced the Russell 2000 for the one-, 20-, 25-, 30-year, and since inception (11/26/86) periods ended December 31, 2016. The Fund's average annual NAV total return since inception was 10.6%, all under the management of Chuck Royce.

What Worked... And What Didn't

All of the portfolio's 11 equity sectors finished 2016 with net gains. Industrials led by a considerable margin, followed by a strong contribution from Information Technology that was considerably higher than the meaningfully positive impact of Materials, the Fund's third-highest contributor. Notable net gains also came from the Consumer Discretionary and Financials sectors. This widespread cyclical strength was consistent with trends in the overall small-cap market. Within Industrials, the best-performing industries were machinery (our largest industry weighting in the sector), commercial services & supplies, and construction & engineering.

The portfolio's top-performing industry, however, came from the Information Technology sector—electronic equipment, instruments & components. Coherent, which manufactures laser diodes and equipment, owned the top spot by position. Its shares skyrocketed in 2016, lifted by a combination of strong profits, a record backlog, and a robust order pipeline. Cognex Corporation is the market leader in machine vision technology that captures and analyzes visual information to automate tasks that previously relied on human eyesight. This technology is a major driver of industrial and process automation. Sales to the auto industry accelerated, its consumer electronics segment proved better than expected, and it gained share among logistics services providers. All of these factors produced an impressive performance for the stock.

We are grateful to have been able to deliver such strong absolute and relative NAV results for our investors and firmly believe that we have turned the page on the anomalous 2011-2015 period, in which extraordinary monetary accommodations caused financial markets to behave in odd and unprecedented ways. In our view, we are on the road back to a more historically normal market environment. We think this bodes well for small-cap stocks.

Even in a good year there are a few disappointments. ZAIS Group Holdings is an investment manager focused primarily on structured credits. Recent credit market turmoil has caused investment performance to fall below various "high-water" marks, meaningfully dampening profitability and future growth opportunities. We chose to hold our shares in 2016 in light of its highly discounted valuation.

We also chose to hold our position in The Advisory Board. Its shares fell most precipitously during the fall as this specialist in performance improvement software and solutions to the health care and higher education industries reported disappointing fiscal third-quarter revenues. We like its niche business and think its long-term prospects remain promising. We also held on to most of our shares of Zealand Pharma, a Danish firm whose share price decline was mostly driven by the sell-off in its industry. We remain optimistic about its long-term growth potential.

Relative results in 2016 were driven by our underweight in the lagging Health Care sector, as well as positive stock selection in the sector. Also aiding relative performance was savvy stock selection in Information Technology. The two largest relative detractors had a similar theme—our underweight in banks caused the Fund to lag in Financials and our underweighting in REITs led to underperformance in the Real Estate sector. The Fund is typically underweight in these interest rate sensitive areas.


Top Contributors to Performance
For 2016 (%)1

Coherent 0.95
Cognex Corporation 0.60
Thor Industries 0.53
Quaker Chemical 0.53
Newport Corporation 0.50
1 Includes dividends

Top Detractors from Performance
For 2016 (%)2

ZAIS Group Holdings Cl. A -0.42
Advisory Board (The) -0.32
Zealand Pharma -0.29
Value Partners Group -0.22
Citadel Capital -0.18
2 Net of dividends

Current Positioning and Outlook

We are grateful to have been able to deliver such strong absolute and relative NAV results for our investors and firmly believe that we have turned the page on the anomalous 2011-2015 period, in which extraordinary monetary accommodations caused financial markets to behave in odd and unprecedented ways. In our view, we are on the road back to a more historically normal market environment. We think this bodes well for small-cap stocks.

In our view cyclicals look well-positioned for ongoing leadership. In addition to our usual cyclical tilt, we are looking in some defensive areas such as healthcare. It is very much on a stock-by-stock basis, with a focus on individual companies that combine attractive valuations with strong fundamentals.

Average Annual Total Returns Through 12/31/16 (%)

  QTR* 1 YR 3 YR 5 YR 10 YR SINCE INCEPT. DATE
Royce Value Trust NAV 8.93 26.79 5.50 12.70 5.81 10.55 11/26/1986
Russell 2000 8.83 21.31 6.74 14.46 7.07 N/A 12/29/1978

* Not Annualized

Important Performance and Expense Information

All performance information reflects past performance, is presented on a total return basis, net of the Fund's investment advisory fee, and reflects the reinvestment of distributions. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Current performance may be higher or lower than performance quoted. Returns as of the recent month-end may be obtained at www.roycefunds.com. The market price of the Fund's shares will fluctuate, so that shares may be worth more or less than their original cost when sold.

The Fund invests primarily in securities of small-cap and micro-cap companies, which may involve considerably more risk than investing in larger-cap companies. The Fund's broadly diversified portfolio does not ensure a profit or guarantee against loss. From time to time, the Fund may invest a significant portion of its net assets in foreign securities, which may involve political, economic, currency, and other risks not encountered in U.S. investments.

Current month-end performance may be obtained at our Prices and Performance page.

Important Performance, Expense, and Disclosure Information

The thoughts expressed in this piece concerning recent market movements and future prospects for small company stocks are solely the opinion of Royce at December 31, 2016, and, of course, historical market trends are not necessarily indicative of future market movements. Statements regarding the future prospects for particular securities held in the Funds' portfolios and Royce's investment intentions with respect to those securities reflect Royce's opinions as of December 31, 2016 and are subject to change at any time without notice. There can be no assurance that securities mentioned above will be included in any Royce-managed portfolio in the future. Regarding the "Top Contributors" and "Top Detractors" tables shown above, the sum of all contributors to, and all detractors from, performance for all securities in the portfolio would approximate the Fund’s year-to-date performance for 2016.

As of 12/31/16, Coherent was 1.2% of the Fund's net assets, Cognex Corporation was 1.0%, Thor Industries was 0.8%, Quaker Chemical was 1.1%, Newport Corporation was 0.0%, ZAIS Group Holdings Cl. A was 0.1%, The Advisory Board was 0.5%, Zealand Pharma was 0.5%, Value Partners Group was 0.3%, and Citadel Capital was 0.04%.

This material is not authorized for distribution unless preceded or accompanied by a current prospectus. Please read the prospectus carefully before investing or sending money. Smaller-cap stocks may involve considerably more risk than larger-cap stocks. (Please see "Primary Risks for Fund Investors" in the prospectus.)

Russell Investment Group is the source and owner of the trademarks, service marks and copyrights related to the Russell Indexes. Russell© is a trademark of Russell Investment Group. The Russell 2000 is an unmanaged, capitalization-weighted index of domestic small-cap stocks. It measures the performance of the 2,000 smallest publicly traded U.S. companies in the Russell 3000 index. The performance of an index does not represent exactly any particular investment, as you cannot invest directly in an index. The performance of an index does not represent exactly any particular investment, as you cannot invest directly in an index.

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