The Stock Market in May

It’s that time of the year again when stock market lore advises investors to get out of the market and, effectively, go on holiday for six months. And, indeed, Sell in May has been good advice over certain periods, for example since 1970 the average return in May for the FTSE All-Share Index has been -0.4% (making it one of only three months that has a negative return ­ the other two being June and September).

Monthly returns of FTSE All Share Index - May (1984-2017)

However, in recent years equities have performed somewhat better in May. Since 2000, the market has seen more Mays with positive month returns than negative and, as can be seen in the accompanying chart, in the last five years the market has been up every May (last year, in 2017, the FTSE All-Share Index had a not insignificant month return of 3.9%).

So, why does May have a bad reputation for shares, and why is the saying “sell in May” so popular?

One reason can be seen in the chart. Although the proportion of positive and negative month returns in May are roughly equal, it can be seen that the positive returns in May are relatively low, whereas when the market falls in May it can suffer quite a large sell-off. In May 2012 the FTSE All-Share Index fell 7.5%, which the largest fall in the index in any month in the last six years.

The average May

In an average May the market trades fairly flat for the first two weeks of the month, and then prices drift lower in the second half.


At the stock level, in the last ten years the FTSE 350 shares with the best average performance in May have been: Aveva Group [AVV], 3i Group [III], Babcock International Group [BAB], Cranswick [CWK], and Severn Trent [SVT]. All these stocks have only seen a negative return in May in one year since 2007. While the FTSE 350 shares with the worst record in May have been Petra Diamonds [PDL], Ferrexpo [FXPO], Thomas Cook Group [TCG], Acacia Mining [ACA], and Carillion [CLLN],


Coming up in May we have the two-day FOMC meeting starting on the 1st, US Nonfarm payroll report on the 4th, May Day bank holiday on the 7th (LSE closed), MPC interest rate announcement on the 10th, Spring bank holiday on the 28th (LSE and NYSE closed), and the quarterly 30th.

Article first appeared in Money Observer

Further articles on the market in May.

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The Stock Market in April

Since 1970, the FTSE All-Share Index has fallen in April in only nine years. This is quite remarkable, and not surprisingly makes April the strongest month of the year for equities. The average return for the index in the month since 1970 is 2.6%, again this is the best performance of any month of the year by quite a margin. Although in recent years, the market’s performance in April has not been so stellar. Since 2000, the average return of the FTSE All-Share Index in April has been 1.8%, with positive month returns seen in 12 of the last 18 years. And it might be noted that the market actually fell in April of last year.

Monthly returns of FTSE All Share Index - April (1984-2017)

The market often gets off to a strong start in the month – the first trading day of April is the second strongest first trading day of all months in the year. The market then tends to be fairly flat for the middle two weeks and then rising strongly in the final week.

End of the strong half of the year

Investors need to make the most of April. After this month the market enters a six-month period when equities have tended to tread water (the Sell in May effect).


The FTSE 350 sectors that tend to be strong in April are: Industrial Engineering, General Retailers, and Oil & Gas Producers; while the weaker sectors are: Construction & Materials, Household Goods, and Media.


At the stock level, the five FTSE 350 shares with the best April volatility-adjusted returns over the past ten years are: JD Sports Fashion [JD.], Ashmore Group [ASHM], Renishaw [RSW], UDG Healthcare [UDG], and Weir Group [WEIR]. Just two FTSE 350 stocks have seen their shares rise in every April since 2007: JD Sports Fashion and Temple Bar Investment Trust. The FTSE 350 stocks with the weakest record in April have been: Balfour Beatty [BBY], BAE Systems [BA.], RELX [REL], Booker Group [BOK], and Pearson [PSON]. Since 2007 the shares of Balfour Beatty and RELX have seen positive returns in April in only three years.

FTSE 100 v S&P 500

This is the strongest month for the FTSE 100 relative to the S&P 500 (in sterling terms), the former out-performs the latter by an average of 1.3 percentage points in April ­ the UK index has out-performed the US index (in sterling terms) in April in 14 of the past 16 years.

Easter holiday

It’s Easter on 1st April so the LSE will be closed on the 2nd (Easter Monday). A famous anomaly in stock markets is that prices tend to be strong on the day preceding and the day following a holiday. This effect is strongest in the year around the Easter holiday.

Article first appeared in Money Observer

Further articles on the market in April.

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UK sector indices 2018 1Q

The following chart plots the performance of UK FTSE 350 sector indices for the first quarter 2018.

UK sector indices - 2018 1Q returns

The data for the chart is given in the following table.

Sector TIDM Rtn(%)
Automobiles & Parts 42.2
Industrial Metals 13.2
Industrial Transportation 3.7
Chemicals 2.4
Health Care Equipment & Services 2.1
Aerospace & Defense 0.6
Food & Drug Retailers -0.4
General Industrials -0.5
Forestry & Paper -0.8
Pharmaceuticals & Biotechnology -1.4
Industrial Engineering -2.0
Nonlife Insurance -2.9
Electricity -3.3
Electronic & Electrical Equipment -3.4
Media -3.7
Real Estate Investment Trusts -4.5
Personal Goods -4.9
Life Insurance -4.9
Financial Services -4.9
Equity Investment Instruments -5.1
Real Estate Investment & Services -5.1
Construction & Materials -6.8
Travel & Leisure -7.3
Mining -7.8
Support Services -8.4
Gas, Water & Multiutilities -8.4
Banks -9.0
Oil & Gas Producers -9.1
Oil Equipment, Services & Distribution -9.9
General Retailers -10.2
Beverages -10.3
Household Goods & Home Construction -12.3
Fixed Line Telecommunications -16.0
Food Producers -17.1
Mobile Telecommunications -17.7
Tobacco -18.9
Software & Computer Services -31.1


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UK equity indices returns 2018 1Q

The following chart plots the performance of UK equity indices in the first quarter 2018.

UK equity indices 2018 1Q

The data for the chart is given in the following table.

Index TIDM Rtn(%)
FTSE AIM 100 -3.0
FTSE Fledgling -3.3
FTSE AIM All-Share -3.4
FTSE SmallCap -5.4
FTSE 250 -6.1
FTSE All-Share – Total Return -6.9
FTSE 100 Index – Total Return -7.2
FTSE4Good UK -7.7
FTSE All-Share -7.8
FTSE 350 -7.9
FTSE4Good UK 50 -7.9
FTSE TechMARK All Share -8.1
FTSE UK Dividend Plus -8.2
FTSE 100 -8.2
FTSE TechMARK Focus Index -8.6


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International markets 2018 1Q

The following charts plot the performance of a selection of world markets in the first quarter 2018. 

Domestic currency

International markets 2018 1Q


The returns are GBP-adjusted (i.e. these are returns for a GB pound investor).

International markets 2018 1Q [GBP]


The returns are USD-adjusted (i.e. these are returns for a US dollar investor).

International markets 2018 1Q [USD]

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The Stock Market in March

Since 1990 the market has had an average return of 0.2% in March, with returns positive in 54% of all years. This ranks March seventh among months of the year for market performance. Although as can be seen in the accompanying chart, negative returns have been seen in March with increasing frequency in recent years.

Monthly returns of FTSE All Share Index - March (1984-2017)

The general trend for the market in March is to rise for the first three weeks and then fall back in the final week – the last week of March has historically been one of the weakest weeks for the market in the whole year.

Small cap v large cap

Small cap stocks tend to outperform large cap stocks at the beginning of the year, and March marks the final month of the three-month period when the FTSE 250 strongly out-performs the FTSE 100. Since 1986 in March on average the FTSE 250 has out-performed the FTSE 100 by 0.8 percentage points.


The sectors that tend to be strong in March are: Chemicals, Industrial Engineering, Industrial Transportation, Oil Equipment, Services & Distribution, and Support Services. The Chemicals and Oil Equipment, Services & Distribution sectors have seen positive returns every March for the past 11 years. While the weak sectors in March have been: Banks, Fixed Line Telecommunications, Gas, Water & Multiutilities, Nonlife Insurance, and Pharmaceuticals & Biotechnology. The Banks sector has the worst record: it has seen positive returns in only three of the past 11 years.


For stocks, the FTSE 350 shares that have performed the best over the last ten years in March are: IWG [IWG], Clarkson [CKN], Senior [SNR], Intertek Group [ITRK], and Petrofac Ltd [PFC]. Clarkson, Intertek, and Petrofac shares have only been down in March once in the past 11 years. The weakest FTSE 350 shares in March have been Vectura Group [VEC], Lancashire Holdings Ltd [LRE], Kier Group [KIE], Renishaw [RSW], and HSBC Holdings [HSBA].


March is the busiest month of the year for FTSE 100 companies paying dividends. And it’s also a busy month for company announcements: the busiest for FTSE 250 companies in the year with 71 companies announcing their prelims this month (along with 24 FTSE 100 companies).

Aside from stocks, March has often been a weak month for gold and a strong month for oil.


It’s Good Friday at the end of the month. A famous anomaly in stock markets is that prices tend to be strong on the day preceding and the day following a holiday. This effect is strongest in the year around the Easter holiday.

Article first appeared in Money Observer

Further articles on the market in March.

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FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 Quarterly Review – March 2018

After market close on 28 February 2018 FTSE Russell confirmed the following changes to the FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 indices. The changes will be implemented at the close Friday, 16 March 2018 and take effect from the start of trading on Monday, 19 March 2018.

FTSE 100

Joining: Royal Mail [RMG]

Leaving: Hammerson [HMSO]

FTSE 250


Baillie Gifford Japan Trust [BGFD]
Bakkavor Group [BAKK]
Charter Court Financial Services Group [CCFS]
ContourGlobal [GLO]
Games Workshop Group [GAW]
On The Beach Group [OTB]
Pantheon International [PIN]


AA [AA.]
Acacia Mining [ACA]
Brown (N.) Group [BWNG]
Dignity [DTY]
Hansteen Holdings [HSTN]
Vectura Group [VEC]

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Chinese New Year 2018 – year of the dog

This coming Friday, 16 February 2018, will be the start of the Chinese New Year.

The following chart plots the average performance of the S&P 500 Index for each animal year since 1950. For example, Ox years started in 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009; and the average performance of the market in those (Chinese) years was +14.0%.

NB. The Chinese calendar is based on the lunar year cycle and so performance has been calculated for each lunar year – not the corresponding calendar year.

Chinese calendar and S&P 500 [2018]

The Chinese New Year starting this Saturday will be the Year of the dog!

This is very good news for investors, as since 1950 dog years have the strongest average returns of the S&P 500 Index of any of the Chinese zodiac animals. Over the last 50 or so years the average lunar year return for dog years has been an impressive 16.8%.

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Political leader market returns

The following table shows the stock market returns for political leaders since they came into office. The table is ranked by the final column – the compound annual growth rate of the market returns.

For example, Shinzo Abe has been prime minister of Japan for 62 months, over that time the Nikkei 225 Index has risen 111.2%, which is a CAGR of 15.7%.


Political Leader Country In Office (months) Stock Market Return (%) Stock Market CAGR (%)
Michel Temer Brazil 18 41.4 27.2
Donald Trump US 13 18.7 17.7
Shinzo Abe Japan 62 111.2 15.7
Narendra Modi India 45 38.4 9.2
Angela Merkel Germany 149 139.5 7.4
Xi Jinping China 64 41.0 6.8
Lee Nak-yeon South Korea 8 4.5 6.6
Malcolm Turnbull Australia 29 16.2 6.5
Theresa May UK 19 7.1 4.4
Mariano Rajoy Spain 75 17.1 2.6
Vladimir Putin Russia 70 -16.4 -3.1
Emmanuel Macron France 9 -4.5 -6.1


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Bitcoin trend value

As of 17 January 2018 the long-term* trend value of Bitcoin is $4605.

So Bitcoin would have to fall approx 49% from its current level to revert to its trend value.

Bitcoin daily price [2012-2018] (17 Jan 2018)

*”long-term” in this case meaning from 2012.

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