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'Sell in May,' or sell anyway? Crisis-hit markets may have it wrong

Traders work the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Getty Images
Traders work the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Is it time to 'sell in May and go away?'

It's worked—briefly—for the past few years. There were selloffs in May from 2010 to 2013, but there were also global events that influenced the markets at that time. These included the debt crisis in Europe, and former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's announcement last year that the Fed would soon begin its tapering of debt sales.

The list of crises are as follows:

May 2010: euro/debt crisis

May 2011 Portugal/Greece crisis

May 2012: Greece exit euro fears

May 2013: Fed taper fears

My point: whatever effect "sell in May…" has had on market psychology, it has been greatly exacerbated by the unrelated series of crises we've experienced in May over the last four years.

Elsewhere

1) While the S&P is only 1 percent from it's recent high, several sectors are down much more, including banks:

Index Percentage from recent closing high

Biotechs -18.3 percent

Gold miners -13.4 percent

Home construction -11.7 percent

Banks -7.1 percent

Airlines -5.4 percent

Semiconductors -4.7 percent

Cyclicals -1.6 percent

Pharma Closed at record high Monday


2) It may not be sell in May and go away, but for initial public offerings, that may be the case.The formerly hot IPO market has been largely frozen for the last couple of weeks. We have been waiting for several tech IPOs to announce road shows...we've gotten nothing.

They may be waiting for earnings...Twitter, for example, is reporting today after the bell.

There have been a few minor announcements. Cheetah Mobile (CMCM), a Chinese mobile security app developer, launched a road show on Monday. The other is Tuniu (TOUR), a Chinese online provider of package travel tours, also launched a road show yesterday.

Yet still nothing from Alibaba. Nothing from Box, or any other tech IPO for that matter. The only major IPOs this week is Papa Murphy and Ares Management, a private equity firm.

Since April of last year, the average tech IPO after-market return (after the first day of trading), is minus 7.4 percent, according to Renaissance Capital.

If we don't hear of more tech launches in the next week, I will definitely be ready to call an IPO slowdown.

--By CNBC's Bob Pisani


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  • A CNBC reporter since 1990, Bob Pisani covers Wall Street from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Wall Street