From the end of October shares tend to be strong through to the end of the year. This is partly a result of the Sell in May effect (aka Halloween effect), where equities are relatively strong over the six-month period November – April. So, the market does have a fair following wind at this time of the year, and then in December shares often become super-charged.
Since 1970 December and April have been the best two months of the year for shares. Since then the FTSE All-Share Index has risen in December in 74% of all years and the average month return has been 2.1%.
As can be seen in the above chart the market has only fallen in six years since 1984. However, two of those negative December returns occurred in the last two years, 2014 and 2015. Which does raise the interesting prospect that December’s long-established pattern of strength in December may be changing.
An average December
In an average December, shares have in fact tended to be weak in the first couple of weeks, but then around the tenth trading day shares charge upwards. The last two weeks of December is the strongest two-week period of the whole year (and is often referred to as the Santa Rally).
Internationally, one could mention that December is one of the few months of the that the FTSE 100 Index has on average out-performed the S&P 500.
While December has been a good month for capital gains, it’s the worst month for income investors with only five FTSE 100 companies paying interim or final dividend payments in the month.
FTSE 350 shares that have tended to be strong in December are: Ashtead Group [AHT], Balfour Beatty [BBY], and William Hill [WMH] these three shares have risen every December for the past ten years. While the shares that have historically been weak this month have been: Debenhams [DEB], Marks & Spencer Group [MKS], and Rank Group [RNK]
Dates to watch this month are: 1 Dec – US Nonfarm payroll report, 13 Dec – FOMC announcement on interest rates, 14 Dec – MPC interest rate announcement at 12 noon, 15 Dec – Triple Witching. And note that the London Stock Exchange will close early at 12h30 on the 23rd and will be closed all day on the 26th and 27th.
Article first appeared in Money Observer
Further articles on the market in December.