Lessons Learned From January

Back in January, we highlighted some seasonal tendencies for the market. We promised a follow-up to see what lessons were learned from January. The short-yet-sweet updates are in green font below.

First Five Days in January

For 2017, the first five days of January ends today. And over the past 41 times where the first five days of the year were up, the subsequent full-year gains have been up 35 times. That’s a hit rate of 85%. The average gain during such years was roughly 14%. Not too shabby. On the flip side, the first five days in January are a less reliable indicator when negative. When this takes place, the positive or negative return for the remainder of the year is almost a coin flip (about 48% accuracy) with an average gain of just 0.2%.

The S&P 500 closed positive with a 0.49% gain in the first five trading days of January.

Down Januarys Warn of Trouble Ahead

Looking at the S&P 500’s performance in January going back to 1950, every down January with one exception (2016!) preceded a flat market, a 10% correction, or an extended bear market. Except for 2016 (which had one of the worst starts in market history), when the first month of the year has been down, the rest of the year followed with an average loss of almost 14%. (PS, when an indicator with such a strong track record results in an opposite outcome, market participants should pay attention to the significance. The fact that 2016 did not finish down is something to note.)

The S&P 500 closed positive for January. There’s nothing to see here.

The January Barometer

“As Goes January, So Goes The Year.”

When the S&P 500 records a gain in the month of January, history suggests that the rest of the year will benefit and finish up as well. Since 1950, this indicator has an amazing hit rate of almost 90%. Specifically, 88.7% of the time, when January records a positive return in the S&P 500, the year finishes positive as well. Pretty incredible.

The S&P 500 closed at 2278.87 for January, recording a 0.93% gain.

January Barometer Portfolio

This is a tendency for the Standard & Poor’s top performing industries in January to outperform the S&P500 over the next 12 months. As described by Sam Stovall of S&P Capital IQ, it’s an effective way to align your portfolio for the remainder of the year. If on February 1st, you invested equally in the 3 best performing sectors in January and held them until February 1st of the following year, you would’ve received a compound rate of growth around 8% as compared with 6.6% for the S&P 500. In addition, the opposite applies. If you bought the worst performers in January, you would’ve underperformed the market with about a 5% return. Since 1970, the compounded growth rate of the ten best performing sub-industries (based on their January performance) was roughly 14% compared to about 7% for the S&P 500. In addition, these ten best performing groups in January went on to beat the market in the subsequent months nearly 7 out of every 10 years, while the worst performing sub-industries outperformed the S&P only 38% of the time. Conclusion: we’re better off letting the January winners ride rather than trying to bottom pick from the January losers.

This one, we’ll have to come back and update. As of this writing, the Standard & Poor’s website that provides sector performance information was down and unresponsive. Once this site is back online, we’ll make sure to get you an update.

The January Effect

Different from the January Barometer, but just as significant, The January Effect is the tendency for Small Cap stocks to outperform Large Cap stocks in January. Many speculate as to why this happens. But we don’t need to get caught up in the why in order to benefit. And frankly, many us of already know that we could call this the mid-December Effect. From 1953 to 1995, small caps outperformed large caps in January 40 out of 43 years. However, about 30 years ago after the crash of 1987, this tendency shifted to mid-December. Even more recently, during the past five years, it appears this has shifted earlier to November. We’ll need a few more years of tendency before we can rename this The November Effect.

This was a mixed bag. Small Caps were down -1.09% during January. Mid Caps barely outpaced Large Caps, recording a +1.04% return during January while the S&P 500 recorded +0.93%. As noted in the original article, this is a market dynamic that seems to be shifting to December, maybe even November. We’ll keep our eye on it for you.

So there you have it. Here’s to seasonality and being on the right side of the trade for the remainder of 2017.

As always, you can get free real-time updates and commentary about this opportunity and many more here: @360Research


Disclaimer: Nothing in this article should be construed as investment advice or a solicitation to buy or sell a security. You invest based on your own decisions.