Always the Season by Statera Asset Management
Each spring, we hear echoes of a favorite line among many market watchers: the months of May through October
have proved the worst of all in terms of return for U.S. investors, so better to watch out. Perhaps even cut and
run. Among other such compartmentalizations of historical returns, the goal presumably is to show that there
are ways to profitably time exposure to the market. Let it be known that we’ve yet to see such a review
consistent enough to warrant a drift from our long-term approach to investing.
– It’s true that the months of May through October seem to have been less favorable from a total return
standpoint over the years
– The return is still positive, however, just less so than during other months of the year
– The upshot is that remaining invested throughout the year still has proved a more fruitful strategy than
attempting to time market move
Sell in May and Go Away?
It’s a well-worn mantra in stock circles that the months between April and November might best be avoided. And
market history for a time suggested investors might have been better off had they taken heed. But since the close of
World War II, those following the refrain might have been disappointed. Sure, the cumulative long-term returns for
U.S. stocks (as proxied by the S&P 500 Index) from the months that include May through October remain the worst
of any consecutive six-month combination. And six of the ten-worst single-day declines in the S&P 500 have occurred
in those months. However, looked at another way, as we do in Figure 1, that returns from May through October are
on average worse than those during the other six months of the year is a fact without much consequence. Who cares
that the returns are lower? They’re still positive.
And that means that investors might have been better off by remaining invested throughout the year. And by better off,
we mean substantially so. Thanks to the “miracle of compounding,” even what seems like relatively meager additional
gains of 2.9% per year over the May-October period may have helped to build wealth over time. An investor who sat
tight might have generated a total return of 11.6% per year since the beginning of the 1950s, much better than the
8.4% return generated when one invested in only the “best” six-month period of the year.
Getting the Full Picture
This is another fine example of market legend that potentially leads investors to make poor choices regarding long-term
financial plans. The way the story often is offered, it may leave the impression that returns are negative, on average,
across the May-October period. And folks might react “accordingly”. As we’ve shown, though, returns are meaningfully
positive over those months, too.
Markets have become a good bit more volatile seemingly in light of concerns with regard to global inflation trends,
challenges within China’s real estate sector, politicking over the U.S. national debt, insecurities around energy
availability through the winter, and the stability of the Federal Reserve Board membership. Songs with rhymes like the
one that prompted this note likely will grow louder. But we caution readers that, unless individual financial
circumstances have changed greatly over the medium-term, it’s often been the better course to remain true to an
existing investment plan, rather than joining in with the time-the-market chorus.
Statera Asset Management is a dba of Signature Resources Capital Management, LLC (SRCM), which is a Registered Investment Advisor. Registration of
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The S&P 500 Index measures the performance of the large-cap segment of the U.S. equity market.
The Bloomberg US Aggregate Bond Index is a broad-based flagship benchmark that measures the investment grade, U.S. dollar-denominated, fixed-rate
taxable bond market. The index includes Treasuries, government-related and corporate securities, MBS (agency fixed-rate pass-throughs), ABS and CMBS
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