Santoli: Trump rally entering January on sturdier ground than last year's fourth-quarter pop

Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Lucas Jackson | Reuters

This is about when the Ghost of Januaries Past might start disturbing investors' sleep.

The past three years, stocks enjoyed fourth-quarter rallies and the consensus call was for decent growth and higher interest rates in the coming year. Yet in the first month of 2014, 2015 and 2016, stocks stumbled, as the slid at least 3 percent in each of those Januaries.

Exactly one year ago, the S&P was up 5 percent for the fourth quarter, having just absorbed a long-awaited quarter-point bump in short-term rates from by the Federal Reserve. The markets wobbled a bit under oil, credit and currency stress in late December, then fell apart in the New Year, on the way to a nasty 15 percent tailspin and sending the average stock to a 20 percent loss.

Right now, stocks are up 4 percent in the fourth quarter, and another quarter-point Fed rate hike last week has been taken in stride (for now).

So does this mean Wall Street is again set to enter a new year having run offside, only to be penalized as the calendar turns over?

While the rally is probably due for a pause or some give-back fairly soon - in order to work off some overheating investor sentiment and stretched technical readings - the conditions across the capital markets suggest the current uptrend is sturdier and not as vulnerable to a harsh correction as it was a year ago.