The stock market has heated up mightily after a swift October rout, with the S&P 500 6 percent higher in a month. And history suggests that it could soon get even better for the bulls.
In the 20 times when the S&P 500 has enjoyed moderate gains (between 0 and 15 percent) in the year to Thanksgiving, the S&P has added to those gains 18 of 20 times, according to Jason Goepfert of SentimenTrader. He also notes that "when it does decline, typically it's very, very small, so when you look at risk-reward just based on the time of the year, it's very, very positive."
Interestingly, if we alternately look at years in which the S&P is up 10 percent or more, the results are somewhat more mixed. When Goepfert, going back to 1950, looks solely at the 28 years in which the S&P was up 10 percent or more at Thanksgiving, 68 percent of the years were positive, with those 28 years averaging a healthy return of 2.4 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year's.
"There was actually a negative correlation between the pre-holiday and the post-holiday returns, suggesting that buying pressure earlier in the year exhausted some of the post-holiday enthusiasm," he wrote to CNBC.
What makes this a bit confusing is that performance-chasing is often credited for the year-end rally. In other words, underperforming managers are thought to take heavily bullish positions toward the end of the year in an attempt to make up for lagging the market during most of the year.
However, that would seem to be an argument for proportional gains pre- and post-Thanksgiving; the fact that more enthusiastic action ahead of the turkey carving seems to presage more muted action into New Year's seems to suggest that something else is going on here.
One explanation is that when stocks are up significantly, beating a benchmark like the S&P becomes a bit less important. Since few clients will kvetch about 15 percent gains in any market environment, hanging on to existing profits becomes more important than chasing fresh ones.