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What Do January’s Market Returns Mean for the Rest of the Year?

Filed under: Retirement, Taxes and Planning, Financial Planning

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It’s that time again. A new year is here, which means a volatile 2018 is in the rearview mirror. The markets suffered a steep drop at the end of last year after climbing steadily through the first three quarters. A number of factors contributed to the markets’ fourth-quarter tumble, including tariffs, interest rate hikes and trouble in the tech sector.

A new year doesn’t mean those challenges are gone, but it does represent a fresh start. And if history is any guide, January can be a strong month for investors. According to a study from LPL Research, in the 68 years from 1950 through 2017, January has been a positive month for the S&P 500 41 times. It’s been negative 27 times.1

As any investor knows, history doesn’t guarantee future performance. However, there does seem to be a correlation between market performance in January and the rest of the year.


How do January returns impact the rest of the year?


According to LPL Research, there’s a relationship between January returns and market returns over the remainder of the year. Its research showed that during years in which there was a positive January return, the market had an average return of 12.2 percent over the next 11 months. When the January return was negative, the S&P 500 returned only 1.2 percent the rest of the year.1

If January returns are more than 5 percent, the correlation is even more pronounced. In those years, the market had an average return of 15.8 percent over the next 11 months. In fact, when January has a return of more than 5 percent, the rest of the year is positive 91.7 percent of the time.1


What is the January effect?


Why has January been positive more often than not? And why does January’s return seem to impact the rest of the year? There are no definitive answers to these questions, but there are theories.

There’s an idea called the “January effect,” which suggests that January returns may be the product of tax strategy. Investors sell stocks in December to harvest tax losses before the end of the year. That depresses prices and creates a buying opportunity in January. Because investors sold at the end of the year, there’s cash on the table to buy in the beginning of the next year.

Of course, this is just a theory. There’s no way to conclusively prove whether the January effect is a real phenomenon. Even if it could be proved, it’s never wise to change your long-term investment strategy based on short-term opportunities.

If you’re concerned about the volatility in 2018 or the coming year, now is a great time to meet with a financial professional. They can help you review your strategy and possibly make changes that reduce your risk exposure and allow you to take advantage of opportunities.


Ready to evaluate your investment strategy? Let’s talk about it. Contact us today at Ambrose Financial & Insurance Services. We can help you analyze your needs and goals and implement a plan. Let’s connect soon and start the conversation.




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18345 – 2018/12/31