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Did Time magazine just doom the Donald?

The Federal Election Commission on Friday released a fresh batch of filings from Super PACs linked to many presidential candidates.

But one name—one BIG name—was noticeably absent from the FEC's midnight delivery. Donald Trump, the New York-based businessman and perpetual also-ran, is unique among the major Republican presidential candidates in that he doesn't have a Super PAC supporting his candidacy.

But one thing he does have is a Time Magazine cover story. The article details the well-known events of the campaign and attributes Trump's sudden popularity to potential voters' "calcifying frustrations" with the political class and their "guttural demand for change."

Donald Trump on the cover of Time magazine
Source: Time
Donald Trump on the cover of Time magazine

Magazine cover stories aren't always such a great thing for their subjects, according to an investing principle known as "the magazine cover indicator." The idea is that once a major magazine has the editorial clearance and gets the resources together, the phenomenon they're focusing on has peaked and is soon to crash back to earth.

One of the best examples of the plight of the magazine-covered was Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' Person of the Year cover of Time in December 1999. In the months after the issue, the dot-com bubble burst and the Nasdaq index lost nearly 40 percent of its value.

Three finance professors at the University of Richmond in Virginia actually looked into the magazine cover indicator.

In a paper entitled "Are Cover Stories Effective Contrarian Indicators?," they found that appearing on a major magazine cover could portend a reversal in fortunes for featured companies.

The paper, published in the Financial Analysts Journal in 2007, ran statistical analysis on the stock returns for public companies featured on the covers of Business Week, Fortune and Forbes magazines over a 20-year period. The researchers categorize 549 cover stories as "positive," "neutral" or "negative" depending on the headline.

Companies whose stock was ascendant when a cover story came out tended to see their growth decline in the weeks and months after a positive cover story. The effect was even more so when measured against comparable companies in terms of size and industry.

Likewise, a company whose poor stock performance led to a negative cover story saw its stock rise following the coverage.

"The appearance on a cover ... tends to signal the end of the extreme performance," the authors concluded.

So while Trump is flying high above the Republican field in most polls, editorial tradition suggests it may not be for much longer.

Attempts to reach Trump's campaign for comment were not immediately answered.

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There's a similar phenomenon in the world of sports. The Sports Illustrated Jinx is famous for dooming the prospects of teams or players who make it to the cover of the magazine. In March, SI featured the Cleveland Indians on its cover with the headline "Wait Till This Year." The cover further predicted "why the tribe will win its first series since 1948." (Coincidentally—or maybe not—both SI and Time are properties of the same company, Time Inc.)

Well we did wait till this year, and the Indians are in last place in the AL Central and have the fourth-worst record in the league.

Of course, the SI jinx is a predictor of future performance, so it's not always a team on high that's due for a fall.

And to fill out the trend, EA Sports is known for supposedly cursing players who appear on the cover of its sports video games, especially the popular Madden NFL franchise.

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