The Stock Market in March

What can we expect from shares as move into spring? Well, since 1984 the market has had an average return of 0.5% in March, with returns positive in 55% 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.

Average month chart for March [1985-2016]

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.

Large cap v small cap stocks

Generally, small cap stocks 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. In March on average the FTSE 250 has out-performed the FTSE 100 by 0.9 percentage points.

Sectors

The sectors that tend to be strong in March are: Aerospace & Defense, Financial Services, General Retailers, Industrial Engineering, and Oil & Gas Producers, Oil Equipment. While weak sectors have been: Gas, Water & Multiutilities, Health Care Equipment & Services, and Nonlife Insurance.

Stocks

While, for stocks, the FTSE 350 shares that have performed the best over the last ten years in March are: Clarkson [CKN], Petrofac Ltd [PFC], and Intertek Group [ITRK], while the weakest shares have been Vectura Group [VEC], Renishaw [RSW], and Lancashire Holdings Ltd [LRE].

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.

The results of the quarterly FTSE 100 index review will be announced on the 1st; at the time of writing Capita and Dixons Carphone look candidates to be booted out, replaced by Scottish Mortgage IT and Weir Group.

Diary

Elsewhere on the diary front we have: 3rd – Nonfarm payroll report, 14th – Two-day FOMC meeting starts, 15th – Chancellor’s Budget, 16th – MPC interest rate announcement, 17th – Triple Witching, 20th – FTSE Index series quarterly changes effective, 26th – Daylight Saving Time starts.


Article first appeared in Money Observer

Further articles on the market in March.

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The Stock Market in February

Since 1970 the average month return of the FTSE All-Share Index in February has been 1.6%, with the month seeing positive returns in 64% of years. But a glance at the accompanying chart will show quite how strong the market has been in February in recent years.

Since 2009 the market has been up every February, and since 1994 market has only seen significant negative returns in three years. There’s no obvious reason why the market has been so strong in recent years in this month; although one possible explication might be that, also in recent years, shares have been weak in January and so they experience a bounce back rally in February.

Average month chart for February [1985-2016]

In an average February shares tend to rise strongly on the first trading day, then trade flat for a couple of weeks, before gaining strongly in the middle of the month and finally drifting off slightly to month end.

Mid-cap outperform large-cap stocks

A feature of February is that, with January, it is the best month for mid-cap stocks relative to the large caps. Since 2000 on average the FTSE 250 Index has out-performed the FTSE 100 Index by 1.6 percentage points in this month, and in that time the large cap index has underperformed mid-caps in February in only four years.

FTSE 100 outperforms S&P 500

On the international front, February is one of the four months in the year that the FTSE 100 Index has historically out-performed the S&P 500 Index. Since 1999 the UK index has underperformed the US index in Fenruary in only three years. Although the out-performance is somewhat attenuated once currency is taken into account as GBPUSD is historically weak in February.

Stocks

In the last ten years FTSE 350 shares that tended to be strong in February are: Hunting [HTG], Provident Financial [PFG], and Anglo American [AAL]. While shares that have tended to be weak in the month are: AstraZeneca [AZN], Workspace Group [WKP], and Vectura Group [VEC]

It’s a busy month for analysts as there are more FTSE 100 results announced during the month than any other ­ 36 companies announce their prelims in February (as do 55 FTSE 250 companies).

Aside from shares historically this has been a strong month for gold and silver.


Article first appeared in Money Observer

Further articles on the market in February.

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Chinese New Year – year of the rooster

This coming Saturday 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 [1950-2017]

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

This is not necessarily good news for investors. Since 1950 rooster years have had the worst 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 rooster years has been -4.1%.

The year just ending was the year of the monkey. On average monkey years have seen an S&P 500 return of 9.8%. In the monkey year just passed the actual S&P 500 return was 22.5%.


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The Stock Market in January

The performance of the stock market in January has changed dramatically over time. From 1984 to 1999 the average FTSE All-Share return in the month was 3.3%, and as can be seen in the accompanying chart in those 16 years the market only fell twice in January. But then things changed completely. Since year 2000 the average market return in January has been -1.6% with the market seeing positive returns in only six years. This makes January the worst of all months for shares since 2000.

Monthly returns of FTSE All Share Index - January (1984-2016)

In an average January, the euphoria of December (the second strongest month of the year) carries over into the first few days of January as the market continues to climb for the first couple of days. But by around the fourth trading day the exhilaration is wearing off and the market then falls for the next 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.

January Effect

In the world of economics the month is famous for the January Effect. This describes the tendency of small cap stocks to out-perform large caps in the month. This anomaly was first observed in the UK, but it certainly seems to apply to the UK market as well. For example, since 1999 the FTSE Fledgling index has out-performed the FTSE 100 Index in January in every year except two. The interesting thing is those two weak years for small-caps were seen in January in the last two years – 2015 and 2016. Is this effect on the wane?

Turning to the longer-term, what is the outlook for the rest of the year?

Outlook for 2017

One of the strongest influences on the US stock market is the four-year Presidential Election Cycle. Historically presidents have primed the economy in the year before elections, resulting in the third year of the Presidential Election Cycle seeing higher annual market returns. By contrast, the first (which will be 2017 in this cycle) and second years have seen lower than average returns. Given the close correlation of the US and UK markets this would suggest a somewhat negative outlook for UK shares in 2017.

What other patterns can we find from history for the likely performance of the market in 2017? Well, we could look at the decennial cycle. Since 1800 the average annual return in the seventh year of the decade has been a reasonable 2.7%; but since 1950 the seventh years have been on quite a run: the average annual return has been 16% and the last time the market fell in a 7th year was 1957. The guidance from the centennial cycle is mixed; in 1717, 1817 and 1917 the respective annual returns for the UK market were +18%, +5%, -11%. In the Chinese calendar, it will be the year of the rooster, this is not a good sign for stocks. Since 1950, rooster years are the only Chinese zodiac years that have had a negative average annual return (of -4%). So, good luck if you are trading against the rooster!


Article first appeared in Money Observer

Further articles on 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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FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 Quarterly Review – December 2016

After market close on 30 November 2016 FTSE Russell confirmed the following changes to the FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 indices. The changes will be implemented at the close Friday, 16 December 2016 and take effect from the start of trading on Monday, 19 December 2016.

FTSE 100

Joining: ConvaTec Group [CTEC],  Smurfit Kappa [SKG]

Leaving: Polymetal International [POLY], Travis Perkins [TPK]

FTSE 250

Joining: Ferrexpo [FXPO], NewRiver REIT [NRR], Nostrum Oil & Gas [NOG], Polymetal International [POLY], Travis Perkins [TPK]

Leaving: Countrywide [CWD], DFS Furniture [DFS], Laird [LRD], NCC Group [NCC], Smurfit Kappa [SKG]

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Flotations

The table below shows the monthly frequency of company flotations (IPOs) and listing on the London Stock Exchange. The dark bars show the month frequency for all flotations of companies currently listed on the LSE, and the lighter bars are limited to just the 162 companies floated from the beginning of 2010 to 2015.

Month of flotation dates for LSE listed companies As can be seen, the most popular month for flotations has been January, 14% of all flotation took place in this month. The second most popular month has been July (11%). By contrast the least popular month is August, followed by February and September.

This profile has changed somewhat in recent years. Since 2010, the two busiest months for flotations have been June and July (13%), followed by March. And, oddly, January is now the least popular month for flotations (3%).

Flotation performance

The following chart plots the performance of an equally-weighted portfolio comprising the 162 companies that floated 2014-2015. For reference, the FTSE 100 Index is also shown.

Flotation portfolio [2015]It is not a pretty sight. Since the start of 2014, the FTE 100 Index has fallen 8%, but the Flotation Portfolio has declined 31% in value.


Extract taken from The UK Stock Market Almanac 2016.

Order the newly published 2017 edition of the Almanac.

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Reminder – the new Almanac for 2017 has just been released!

Almanac-2017-Cover

The new edition of the Almanac,The UK Stock Market Almanac 2017, has just been published.

A previous blog post detailed all the new studies and strategies in the 2017 edition. The 2017 Almanac also updates some of the studies of seasonality trends and anomalies that have featured in previous editions. Including-

Seasonality and anomaly updates in the new edition

  • Bounceback Portfolio – a strategy that buys the worst performing shares in a year, and then sells them after three months into the new year; the strategy had its best year ever last year.
  • Strong/weak shares by month – analysis of FTSE 350 shares reveals those that have performed consistently strongly or weakly for each month for the past ten years. Some shares have risen (or fallen) in a specific month for every year since 2007.
  • FTSE 100/S&P 500 Switching Strategy – the strong/weak months for the FTSE 100 Index relative to the S&P 500 Index are identified; and a strategy of switching between the two markets is found that produces twice the returns than either market individually.
  • Low/high Share Price Strategy – a portfolio of the 20 lowest priced shares in the market has out-performed a portfolio of the 20 highest priced shares by an average 38.7 percentage points each year since 2002.
  • Quarterly Sector Strategy – The strongest/weakest sectors for each quarter are identified; and the Quarterly Sector Strategy continues to beat the market.
  • Quarterly Sector Momentum Strategy – a portfolio comprising the best FTSE 350 sector from the previous quarter, and re-balanced quarterly, out-performs the FTSE All Share Index by an average of 2.0 percentage points per month. A variant – buying the worst sector of the previous quarter – has performed even better.
  • FTSE 100/250 Monthly Switching Strategy – on the back of research into the comparative monthly performance of the two indices, a strategy of switching between the two markets is found that greatly out-performs either index individually.
  • Day of the Week Strategy – a strategy exploiting the day of the week anomaly that out-performs the FTSE 100 Index. [wk.??, with day of the week analysis also on p?? in stats section]
  • Monthly Share Momentum Strategy – a monthly re-balanced momentum portfolio of FTSE 100 stocks beats the market.
  • Sell in May – this extraordinary effect remains as strong as ever: since 1982 the market in the winter months has out-performed the market in the summer months by an average 8.8 percentage points annually; in the year since the last edition of the Almanac the out-performance was 4.2 percentage points.
  • Sell Rosh Hashanah, Buy Yom Kippur – the US equity market tends to be weak between these two Jewish holidays; is there a similar effect in the UK market?
  • Market seasonality (day/week/month) – December is still the strongest month in the year for the stock market, while September is the weakest. Analysis is also updated for weekly and daily performance of the market (Sinclair Numbers) [p??]
  • Day of the week performance – Thursday is the new weakest day of the week (Monday used to be), and the strongest day is now Friday. [p?? (in stats section)]
  • Turn of the month – The market tends to be weak a few days either side of the turn of the month, but abnormally strong on the first trading of the new month (except December). [p?? (in stats section)]
  • FTSE 100 Index quarterly reviews – as before, it is found that share prices tend to rise immediately before a company joins the FTSE 100 index and are then flat or fall back. Before a company leaves the index share prices tend to fall and then rise after the exit. [wks 10, ??]
  • FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 indices – the trend continues for the FTSE 100 Index to greatly under-perform the mid-cap index in January and February and out-perform it in September and October. [p?? – (in stats section)]
  • FOMC announcements ­ how do US and UK equities react in the days around the periodic announcements of the policy statement of the Federal Open Market Committee.
  • Gold ­ does the price of gold exhibit a monthly seasonality?
  • Holidays and the market – in recent years the market has been significantly strong on the days immediately before and after holidays and weak fours days before and three days after holidays.
  • Trading around Christmas – how do share prices behave in the days around Christmas?
  • The January Effect – analysis suggests that performance in January is inversely proportional to company size (i.e. small companies like January!)
  • Very large one-day market falls ­ analysis of the behaviour of the FTSE 100 Index for very large one-day falls.
  • Lunar calendar and the stock market – do the phases of the moon affect the stock market?
  • Super Bowl  – ­does the Super Bowl Indicator really accurately predict the market for the year?
  • Market momentum grid – a reference grid is presented giving the historic tendency of the market to rise (fall) following a series of consecutive daily/weekly/monthly/yearly rises (falls). As before, it is found that trends become more established the longer they last, and the market displays greater momentum for longer frequencies. [p?? (in stats section)]
  • UK and US markets – the correlation between the UK and US markets has been increasing since the 1950s, and in the years since 2010 has been stronger than ever. [p?? (in stats section)]
  • Correlation of UK equity markets – if you want to diversify away from FTSE 100 Index, how effective will it be investing in the FTSE 250, FTSE Small Cap, FTSE Fledgling or FTSE AIM All Shares indices? [p?? (in stats section)]
  • Seasonality of GBPUSD ­  – what are the strong/weak months for GB sterling against the US dollar?
  • The average market month – by taking the average performance of the market on each day of a month it is possible to create a chart of the average performance of the market for that month, and then to combine the 12 charts to produce a chart of the average behaviour of the market in all months.
  • The average market year – the performance and volatility of the market for an average year.
  • The market’s decennial cycle – can analysis of the market’s performance in the equivalent years of decades reveal any pattern of behaviour?
  • Ultimate Death Cross  – ­ has the 50-month moving average crossed down through the 200-month moving average?
  • The Long-Term Formula – the formula that describes the long-term trend of the stock market and gives a forecast for the FTSE 100 in December 2040.

In addition to the above, analysis is also updated for the standard Almanac features such as: comparative performance of UK equity indices, company ranking by financial and price behaviour criteria, price history profile of the FTSE All Share Index, sector profiles of the FTSE 100 and 250 indices, annual performance of sectors etc.

Order your copy of 2017 Almanac now!

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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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