Average market behaviour in January

The following chart plots the average performance of the FTSE 100 Index during January since 1984.

Average month chart for January [1985-2016]

As can be seen, historically the market tends to rise for the first two or three days in January and then sells off quite strongly over the following two weeks. The second week of January is the weakest week for the market in the whole year. Then, around the middle of the third week, the market has tended to rebound sharply.


Other articles about the market in January.

 

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The Stock Market in December

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%.

Monthly returns of FTSE All Share Index - December (1984-2015)

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.

Shares

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]

Diary

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.

 

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Monthly seasonality of FTSE 100 Index

Does the FTSE 100 Index display a monthly seasonality?

[We last looked at this in 2014, so time to see if anything has changed.]

Positive returns

The following chart shows the proportion of months that have seen positive returns for the FTSE 100 Index since 1980. For example, the index rose in April in 28 years since since 1980 (76%).

FTSE 100 Index positive returns by month [1980-2016]

Broadly, the pattern of behaviour has not changed greatly in the last two and a half years. The months which have seen the highest number of positive returns are still April, October and December.

But in recent years, since 2000, February has been getting relatively stronger, while January and March relatively weaker. Since 1980, the proportion of positive return months for January is 59%. but measured from 2000 the figure falls to 35%.

Average returns

The following chart plots the average month returns for the FTSE 100 Index for the period 1980-2016. For example, since 1980 average return in January of the index has been 0.9%

FTSE 100 Index average returns by month [1980-2016]

Similar to the previous study, the standout two strong months of the year since 1980 have been April and December. Although since 2000 the performance of December has been dropping off and has been over-taken by October as the second best performing month in recent years.

The months with the lowest (in fact, negative) returns are still May, June and September. Again, things have changed slightly in recent years, with January equal with September as having the worst average returns since 2000.

The following chart is similar to the above (in that it plots the index average returns by month, the short brown horizontal bars), but it adds a measure of the extent of variation away from the average for each month (the measure is 1 standard deviation).

FTSE 100 Index average returns by month (1SD) [1997]

An obvious observation to make is that the variability of returns around the average are very large for all months. The months that have seen the greatest variability (i.e. volatility) have been September and October, and to a slightly lesser extent January. The months with the lowest variabilility have been April and December.

Cumulative returns

The following chart shows the cumulative returns indexed to 100 for each month. For example, £100 invested in the FTSE 100 only in the month of April from 1980 would have grow to £217 by 2016.

This is not meant to represent real-life investable portfolios (e.g. transaction costs are not included), but to illustrate the large effect the returns differences can have on cumulative performance over a long term,

FTSE 100 Index cumulative returns by month [1980-2016]

Notes

  1. The superior returns for April and December can be clearly seen on this chart. Indeed, the close correlation of returns for the two months is remarkable, and rather odd. However, as can be seen, due to the recent couple of weak years for December, performance has been diverging between the the two months.
  2. The most striking change in behaviour is undoubtedly that for January. This was the strongest month for the FTSE 100 Index until the beginning of the millennium, since when its performance has fallen off quite dramatically.
  3. In a less dramatic fashion (than January) the returns for November have decreased strongly since 2005.
  4. The months represented by dashed lines are the six months May to October. These lines can be seen to largely occupy the lower part of chart – which supports the Sell in May effect.
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The Stock Market in November

November tends to be one of the quieter month for shares. After the sometimes dramatic moves in September and October, and before the traditional end-of-year rally in December, investors seem to take a pause in November. The month currently has the lowest volatility of monthly returns of any month in the year. Of course, this year may be different with the US presidential elections this month.

As can be seen in the accompanying chart, the market used to be strong in November for many years prior to 2005, but since then the market has been more likely to fall than rise in the month and has seen an average month return of -0.6%.

Monthly returns of FTSE All Share Index - November (1984-2015)

An average November

As can be seen in the following chart, on average the market tends to rise the first four days of the month, this could be influenced by investors buying into the market anticipating the strong six-month period of the year November to April (the Sell in May effect). After that the market then gives up those gains over the following few days, rises again, falls back, until finally increasing quite strongly over the final seven trading days of the month.

FTSE 100 average month chart for November [1984-2015]

Shares

In the last ten years the FTSE 350 shares that have performed best in November have been Babcock International Group [BAB], Compass Group [CPG], CRH [CRH], BT Group [BT.A], and Greene King [GNK]; Babcock, Compass and CRH have only had negative returns in November in one year since 2006. An equally-weighted portfolio of these five shares would have out-performed the FTSE 350 index by an average of 5.2 percentage points each year since 2006. While the FTSE 350 shares with the worst November performance over the last ten years have been Vedanta Resources [VED], Royal Bank of Scotland Group (The) [RBS], Tullett Prebon [TLPR], Ashmore Group [ASHM], and Standard Chartered [STAN].

Elsewhere, November has been a strong month for gold and weak for oil and GBPUSD.

Diary

This is a busy month for interim results: 64 companies from the FTSE 350 make their announcements this month.

Dates to watch for this month are: 1 Nov – two-day FOMC meeting starts, 3 Nov – MPC interest rate announcement at 12 noon, 4 Nov – US Nonfarm payroll report, 8 Nov – US Presidential Election, 24 Nov – Thanksgiving Day (US), NYSE closed, and 30 Nov – FTSE 100 quarterly review.

The big event this month will obviously be the US presidential election on 8 November. Analysis of the impact of these presidential elections on the UK market since 1972 shows that on average UK shares tends to trade stronger as the election day approaches, and then tails off in the few days following the election. The strongest day of the period has been the election day itself.

Further articles on the US presidential elections.


Article first appeared in Money Observer

Further articles on the market in November.

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Shares that like November

Shares that have been strong November

The following table lists the five FTSE 350 shares that have the best returns in November over the last ten years. For example, Babcock has an average return of 4.6% for the month of November. Each stock has risen in at least eight of the past ten years in November.

Company TIDM Avg(%)
Babcock International Group 4.6
Compass Group 4.5
CRH 4.3
BT Group 5.3
Greene King 4.8

A portfolio of these four stocks would have out-performed the FTSE 350 Index in November in nine of the last ten years with an average out-performance of 5.2 percentage points each November.

Shares that have been weak November

The following table lists the five FTSE 350 shares that have the worst returns in November over the last ten years. For example, Vedanta Reseources has an average return of -10.5% for the month of November. Each stock has fallen in at least eight of the past ten years in November.

Company TIDM Avg(%)
Vedanta Resources -10.5
Royal Bank of Scotland Group (The) -8.7
Tullett Prebon -7.8
Ashmore Group -5.3
Standard Chartered -3.7

A portfolio of these five stocks would have under-performed the FTSE 350 Index in November in eight of the last last ten years with an average under-performance of 6.7 percentage points each November.

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Last trading day of October

Next Monday will be the last trading day (LTD) of October.

Historically, the last trading day of October has been the strongest LTD of any month in the year. Since 1984 the market has on average risen 0.46% on the LTD of October, with positive returns in 69% of all years.

The following chart shows the FTSE 100 Index returns for every October LTD since 1984.

FTSE 100 last trading day of October [1984-2015]

As can be seen on the chart the market only fell twice on the October LTD in the 19 years from 1984 to 2002. One possible reason for this may have been that November is the start of the strong six month period of the year (this is part of the Sell in May effect), and investors could have been buying equities at this time in anticipation of that.

However, in recent years this pattern of behaviour has changed. Quite dramatically so – in the last seven years the market has only risen once on the October LTD. Last year (2015) the FTSE 100 Index was down 0.5% on the last trading day of October.

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The Stock Market in October

October can be a volatile month for equities. Since 1984, seven of the 10 largest one-day falls in the market have occurred in October. The largest fall happening on 20 October 1987 when the FTSE 100 Index fell 12.2%. And since 1970 the average month return for the stock market has been 0.4% ­ ranking October 9th of the 12 months. So, this would appear to bode ill for investors in October.

However, if you look at the accompanying chart you will see why averages don’t tell the whole story and how things have changed in recent years. For example, since 1992 the market has only fallen in five years (and two of those of year were the exceptional years of 2008 and 2009). And since 2000 the average stock market return for month has been 1.7%, making it the second best month for equities after April.

Monthly returns of FTSE All Share Index - October (1984-2015)

The strength of equities in October may not be unconnected with the fact that the strong six-month period of the year starts at the end of October (part of the Sell in May effect) and investors may be anticipating this by increasing their weighting in equities during October. But while October, therefore, should be regarded as a good month for shares, any occasional weakness in the month can be severe.

The average October

In an average month for October the market tends to rise in the first two weeks, then to fall back, before a surge in prices in the last few days of the month (Sell in May effect ­ aka Halloween effect ­ again!)

The month is one of only two months (the other is September) that FTSE 100 stocks tend to out-perform the mid-cap FTSE 250 stocks – since 1986 the FTSE 100 Index has on average out-performed the FTSE 250 Index by 0.7 percentage points in October.

Diary

Dates to watch out for this month are: 7 Oct – US Nonfarm payroll report (anticipated), and 13 Oct – MPC interest rate announcement at 12 noon.

And, finally, for connoisseurs of market anomalies, here’s a good one. An old Wall Street adage goes, “Sell before Rosh Hashanah; buy before Yom Kippur”. This observation was first made for the London market in 1915, and research shows it would still seem to apply in both the UK and US markets. Rosh Hashanah falls on 2 October and Yom Kippur is on 11 October.

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Sell Rosh Hashanah, Buy Yom Kippur

In 1935, the Pennsylvania Mirror referred to a Wall Street adage, “Sell before Rosh Hashanah; buy before Yom Kippur”. Recently an academic paper quoted this article and set out to establish if the adage was true and still valid today.

The theory is that the market is weak during the approximately seven trading-days gap between the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah ) and the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). To test this theory the authors studied the results of short-selling the Dow Jones Industrial Average on one of the three days before Rosh Hashanah and buying back on one of the three days following Yom Kippur. They analysed the nine different combinations of trade dates, i.e. selling on the third day before Rosh Hashanah (R-3) and buying back on the day after Yom Kippur (Y+1), R-3 and Y+2, R-3 and Y+3, R-2 and Y+1 etc. The period tested was 1907 to 2008.

The paper found that the mean returns for the DJIA for the nine trade dates considered ranged from -0.47% for R-3 and Y+2 (i.e. shorting three days before Rosh Hashanah and covering two days after Yom Kippur) , to -1.01 for R-2 and Y+1.

In other words, they found that the market had indeed been weak between the two Jewish holidays, and that five of the nine scenarios yielded statistically significant results. They checked to see if this Jewish Holiday Effect might have diminished in recent years and found that the effect over 1998-2008 was actually stronger for six of the nine trade scenarios than for the prior period 1907-1998.

So, what’s the reason for this?

The authors of the paper found that this was not a result of the influence of other anomalies (e.g. the weekend effect), nor was it the result of data outliers. One Wall Street trader gave the traditional explanation that people of the Jewish religion “wished to be free (as much as possible) of the distraction of worldly goods during a period of reflection and self-appraisal.” Of course Jewish traders are only a small part of the market, but at the margin their withdrawal from the market over this period may increase volatility and risk and thus discourage others from trading, and then the arbitrage traders exploiting the effect can make it self-fulfilling.

Is this a peculiarity of just the US market, or is the effect present in other markets?

The above cited paper starts by quoting a 9 September 1915 New York Times article titled “The London Market Quiet – Jewish Holiday Causes Small Attendance on the Exchange”, the newspaper reported that money and discount rates on the London Stock Exchange were “easy today” and attendance at the exchange was low due to the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah.

So, might this effect still be in force in the London market today?

The following chart shows the mean returns for the FTSE 100 Index for the nine combinations of trade dates (as above) for the period 1984-2013.

Average FTSE 100 returns for period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur [1984-2015]

As can be seen, the market was weak for all nine combinations of trade dates over the Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur period. The weakest combination was for selling on the third day before Rosh Hashanah and buying back on the second day after Yom Kippur (T2) when the mean return has been -1.3%.

The Jewish Holiday Effect would therefore seem to be as strong in the London market as that in New York.


The above is an extract from the Harriman Stock Market Almanac 2017.

 

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The Stock Market in September

After summer the stockmarket tends to burst back into life in September. Unfortunately, the renewed activity in shares tends to be on the downside. Since 1982 the FTSE All Share Index has an average return of -1.1% in this month, this gives September the worst record for shares for any month in the year. And things haven’t improved recently, since year 2000 the average month return in the month has been -1.9%.

Monthly returns of FTSE All Share Index - September (1984-2015)

However, although the average return is bad in the month, about half of all Septembers actually have positive returns. The problem is that when the market does fall in this month, the falls can be very large. For example, as can be seen in the accompanying chart, the FTSE All-Share Index has declined over 8% in three years since 2000.

Mid-cap stocks

The situation is even worse for mid-cap stocks. On average the FTSE 100 Index out-performs the FTSE 250 Index by 0.7 percentage points in September – making September, along with October, the worst months for mid-cap stocks relative to the large-caps

Although October has a reputation for being a volatile month for shares (due to some very large market falls in the month, for example in 1987), since 2000 the most volatile month for stocks by a significant margin has been September.

The average September

In an average month for September the market tends to gently drift lower for the first three weeks before rebounding slightly in the final week – although the final trading day (FTD) of the month has historically been one of the weakest FTDs of all months in the year.

In contrast to equities, gold and silver tend to be relatively strong in September.

Sectors

On the sector front, September tends to be good for Electricity stocks, Food & Drug Retailers, Mobile Telecommunications, Pharmaceuticals & Biotechnology, and relatively bad for Aerospace & Defense, Chemicals, Electronic & Electrical Equipment, General Retailers, Media, Technology Hardware & Equipment.

Diary

In the diary this month are: the US Nonfarm payroll report on the 2nd, the NYSE closed on the 5th (Labor Day), ECB Governing Council Meeting on the 8th, MPC interest rate announcement on the 15th, and it’s Triple Witching on the 16th. And, finally, Saturday 10th September will see horse racing at Doncaster – the St Leger Stakes. Of note for those investors who adhere to the adage “sell in May, go away and don’t come back till St Legers day”.


Article first appeared in Money Observer

Further articles on the market in September.

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The Stock Market in August

August used to be a good month for the stock market, but this has changed in recent years. Indeed, as can be seen in the accompanying chart, the market has fallen by over 6% in this month in two of the last five years. As it’s a month for holidays, trading volumes tend to be low for stocks which in some years can lead to some increased volatility.

Monthly returns of FTSE All Share Index - August (1984-2015)

The average August

Historically in a typical August the market tends to drift lower for the first couple of weeks and then increase for the final two weeks of the month. The final trading day of the month has historically been strong.

Sectors

The sectors which tend to be strong in August are Food & Drug Retailers, Gas, Water & Multiutilities, Health Care Equipment & Services and Household Goods; while the only predominantly weak sector is Chemicals.

Historically this has been a weak month for GBP against the USD, and also for silver.

August is the busiest month for FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 interim results announcements: 40 FTSE 100 companies and 87 FTSE 250 companies announce their interims this month.

Diary

Significant dates this month are: the MPC interest rate announcement on the 4th, US Nonfarm payroll report on the 5th, the MSCI quarterly index review announcement on the 11th, and the LSE is closed on the 31st (Summer bank Holiday).

FTSE indices quarterly review

The result of the quarterly FTSE index reviews (including changes for the FTSE 100 and 250 indices) will be announced on the 31st (this announcement of the 3rd quarterly review always used to be made in September, but since the timing was changed recently this can sometimes now take place in August,­ as is the case this year.

Olympics

The major known global event this August will be the Olympic Games. The Olympics generally have little impact on shares worldwide, but where some influence can be seen is in the shares of the host country ­ this year being Brazil. Analysis of stock markets in the year of the games shows that equities in host country markets appear to be weak in the months leading up to the games, perhaps when the media runs stories of cost overruns and missed timetables (interestingly, this has not been the case in Brazil so far this). And then there appears to be a relief rally afterwards.


Article first appeared in Money Observer

Further articles on the market in August.

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