Stocktake: Time for some seasonal stock market strength?

Analysts suggest holiday cheer helps generate outsized returns

Since 1950, November and December have been the strongest months for US stocks. Photograph: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

Since 1950, November and December have been the strongest months for US stocks. Photograph: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

 

Investors will be hoping new market highs are coming, now that stocks are entering what is, seasonally, traditionally their strongest period of the year.

Since 1950, November and December have been the strongest months for US stocks. This seasonal strength has historically continued into the new year; over the last 70 years, all S&P 500 gains occurred between November and April, with investors actually losing money in the May-October period.

Nor is this some kind of odd US phenomenon; one study famously found this same seasonal pattern in 36 out of 37 countries.

A fluke? Maybe. One study found the US effect to be concentrated in the third year of presidential terms, saying the winter-summer difference largely disappears if you exclude these years. However, other researchers say this statistical anomaly is robust, whilst many analysts suggest that seasonal holiday cheer and end-of-year portfolio rebalancing help generate outsized returns.

Of course, even optimists admit history is at best a guide, not a guarantee, but investors will certainly be hoping stocks follow the seasonal script in coming months.

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