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Whitaker-Myers Wealth Managers is an SEC-registered investment adviser firm. The information presented is for educational purposes only and intended for a broad audience. The information does not intend to make an offer or solicitation to sell or purchase any specific securities, investments, or investment strategies. Investments involve risk and are not guaranteed. Whitaker-Myers Wealth Managers reasonably believes that this marketing does not include any false or misleading statements or omissions of facts regarding services, investment, or client experience. Whitaker-Myers Wealth Managers has a reasonable belief that the content will not cause an untrue or misleading implication regarding the adviser’s services, investments, or client experiences. Please refer to the firm’s ADV Part 2A for material risks disclosures.

Past performance of specific investment advice should not be relied upon without knowledge of certain circumstances of market events, the nature and timing of the investments, and relevant constraints of the investment. Whitaker-Myers Wealth Managers has presented information in a fair and balanced manner.

Copyright (c) 2023 Clearnomics, Inc. and Whitaker-Myers Wealth Managers, LTD. All rights reserved. The information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but is not necessarily complete and its accuracy cannot be guaranteed. No representation or warranty, express or implied, is made as to the fairness, accuracy, completeness, or correctness of the information and opinions contained herein. The views and the other information provided are subject to change without notice. All reports posted on or via www.clearnomics.com or any affiliated websites, applications, or services are issued without regard to the specific investment objectives, financial situation, or particular needs of any specific recipient and are not to be construed as a solicitation or an offer to buy or sell any securities or related financial instruments. Past performance is not necessarily a guide to future results. Company fundamentals and earnings may be mentioned occasionally, but should not be construed as a recommendation to buy, sell, or hold the company's stock. Predictions, forecasts, and estimates for any and all markets should not be construed as recommendations to buy, sell, or hold any security--including mutual funds, futures contracts, and exchange traded funds, or any similar instruments. The text, images, and other materials contained or displayed in this report are proprietary to Clearnomics, Inc. and constitute valuable intellectual property. All unauthorized reproduction or other use of material from Clearnomics, Inc. shall be deemed willful infringement(s) of this copyright and other proprietary and intellectual property rights, including but not limited to, rights of privacy. Clearnomics, Inc. expressly reserves all rights in connection with its intellectual property, including without limitation the right to block the transfer of its products and services and/or to track usage thereof, through electronic tracking technology, and all other lawful means, now known or hereafter devised. Clearnomics, Inc. reserves the right, without further notice, to pursue to the fullest extent allowed by the law any and all criminal and civil remedies for the violation of its rights.

  • Writer's pictureJohn-Mark Young

Seasonal Patterns: What Do They Mean? Santa Claus Rally, January Effect and Sell in May and Go Away

The Santa Claus Rally sounds great, right?! The Jolly Saint Nick comes to town, bringing little Johnny a nice new toy and simultaneously blessing Johnny's mom and dad with a lift to their 401(k). Or how about the concept of sell in May and go away, because all of Wall Street is heading to the Hamptons for the summer, thus there's no money to be made until everyone is back in their trading seat. I thought Dave Ramsey told me Esoph's Fable is the key to success, just be consistent. Should these season patterns direct my trading, or better yet, if you're a client of Whitaker-Myers Wealth Managers, does it impact our trading theory?


While investing often involves recognizing economic and market data patterns, not all patterns are equally applicable or valid. On the one hand, history shows that economic trends such as the business cycle and factors that drive corporate profitability, for instance, do impact markets. On the other hand, investors follow countless other patterns that may or may not help returns. Distinguishing between these types of patterns is important not only for portfolio outcomes but also for preventing counterproductive financial decisions. What do investors need to know about commonly discussed market patterns as they plan for the year ahead?


The January Effect has faded over time for Growth and Growth & Income categories

One difference between the two types of patterns above is whether they explain market movements based on some underlying trend or if they are surface-level observations. The latter often capture investor interest and include seasonal or calendar-based patterns such as the "January Effect," "sell in May and go away," investing depending on the phase of the moon, or even based on which NFL division wins the Super Bowl. On the face, some of these seem more reasonable than others. However, they all persist because there may have been statistical evidence to support their existence at some point.


The January Effect, for instance, is often discussed around this time of the year. This is based on the observation made in the mid-20th century that the month of January often experiences much stronger stock returns than other months. Some research even found that a large proportion of each year's return is generated during just a few days in January. Naturally, this implies that investors should dedicate their investment or trading activity to the month of January to take advantage of this effect.


The accompanying chart shows there may have been some truth to this when it was first discovered. From 1928 to 1999, the month of January did experience attractive positive returns on average, especially compared to most months except July and December. The next chart shows that this effect was even more prevalent in small-cap stocks. The fact that this was persistent and statistically significant for part of the 20th century naturally piqued investor interest and was the subject of much investment research.


Even aggressive growth has seen the January Effect disappear


From a theoretical perspective, patterns such as the January Effect should be expected to be short-lived since investors would seek to take advantage of them, reducing their effects over time. Otherwise, this would violate the "efficient market hypothesis," which states that public information should already be reflected in stock prices. For this reason, patterns that do persist are of great interest to investors who seek sources of returns and to researchers who seek clues as to how markets operate.


Patterns such as these are referred to as market anomalies since standard theories for understanding stock returns can't easily explain why the January Effect should exist. Thus, it requires other explanations such as tax loss harvesting in which investors sell stocks for tax purposes and repurchase them in January, households investing holiday bonuses in January, portfolio managers selling stocks in December and buying again in January ("window dressing"), and many more. These explanations are often formulated after the fact, the reverse of the typical scientific process in which hypotheses are formulated first and then tested.


One alternative is the possibility of a legal or structural reason behind the pattern that makes it difficult to take advantage of or if it comes with greater risk. For instance, it's well known that the best way to "buy low, sell high" and generate strong positive returns is to invest during a market correction or bear market. This would have been the case during the 2008 financial crisis, in March 2020 during the pandemic bear market, or across 2022 when inflation spooked markets. However, despite this knowledge of history, investors tend to avoid these periods exactly because they seem risky. This is partly "irrational" since it's human nature to be fearful when markets are down. It's also "rational" since measures of volatility and uncertainty rise during these periods, affecting expected return calculations.

Whatever the reason is for the January Effect, there is clear evidence that it has faded across both large and small caps since 2000. The charts above highlight this clearly. This underscores another fact about surface-level patterns: they often work until they don't. Without a clear explanation of what drives this performance, it's hard to know whether it can be relied upon after it is discovered.


This is also related to the statistical idea that patterns will emerge in any dataset, even if the data is inherently random. For instance, in a large group of people flipping coins, it's natural to expect a few individuals to flip heads many times in a row just by chance. These individuals might then be viewed as being skilled at flipping coins and capturing the attention of others. Similarly, it's not unexpected for a particular month to have larger-than-average returns over many years just by random chance or due to large outlier events. In these cases, one might expect these anomalies to fade over time as they "revert to the mean," which is precisely what the charts above show.


Investors should focus on long run trends instead

What does this mean for investors? Even when there is truth to surface-level patterns or seasonal effects, it's unclear what drives them or if they will continue. From a practical perspective, history suggests it's better to focus on well-established drivers of markets that tend to operate over extended time frames. The business cycle, corporate earnings, valuations, and other fundamental measures are not perfect predictors of market performance, but they do tend to be correlated with returns over years and decades.


The bottom line? Investors should remain focused on long-run trends rather than seasonal market patterns as they work toward their financial goals.



Whitaker-Myers Wealth Managers is an SEC-registered investment adviser firm. The information presented is for educational purposes only and intended for a broad audience. The information does not intend to make an offer or solicitation to sell or purchase any specific securities, investments, or investment strategies. Investments involve risk and are not guaranteed. Whitaker-Myers Wealth Managers reasonably believes that this marketing does not include any false or misleading statements or omissions of facts regarding services, investment, or client experience. Whitaker-Myers Wealth Managers has a reasonable belief that the content will not cause an untrue or misleading implication regarding the adviser’s services, investments, or client experiences. Please refer to the firm’s ADV Part 2A for material risks disclosures.

Past performance of specific investment advice should not be relied upon without knowledge of certain circumstances of market events, the nature and timing of the investments, and relevant constraints of the investment. Whitaker-Myers Wealth Managers has presented information in a fair and balanced manner.

Copyright (c) 2023 Clearnomics, Inc. and Whitaker-Myers Wealth Managers, LTD. All rights reserved. The information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but is not necessarily complete and its accuracy cannot be guaranteed. No representation or warranty, express or implied, is made as to the fairness, accuracy, completeness, or correctness of the information and opinions contained herein. The views and the other information provided are subject to change without notice. All reports posted on or via www.clearnomics.com or any affiliated websites, applications, or services are issued without regard to the specific investment objectives, financial situation, or particular needs of any specific recipient and are not to be construed as a solicitation or an offer to buy or sell any securities or related financial instruments. Past performance is not necessarily a guide to future results. Company fundamentals and earnings may be mentioned occasionally, but should not be construed as a recommendation to buy, sell, or hold the company's stock. Predictions, forecasts, and estimates for any and all markets should not be construed as recommendations to buy, sell, or hold any security--including mutual funds, futures contracts, and exchange traded funds, or any similar instruments. The text, images, and other materials contained or displayed in this report are proprietary to Clearnomics, Inc. and constitute valuable intellectual property. All unauthorized reproduction or other use of material from Clearnomics, Inc. shall be deemed willful infringement(s) of this copyright and other proprietary and intellectual property rights, including but not limited to, rights of privacy. Clearnomics, Inc. expressly reserves all rights in connection with its intellectual property, including without limitation the right to block the transfer of its products and services and/or to track usage thereof, through electronic tracking technology, and all other lawful means, now known or hereafter devised. Clearnomics, Inc. reserves the right, without further notice, to pursue to the fullest extent allowed by the law any and all criminal and civil remedies for the violation of its rights.

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