U.S. stocks are off to a rocky start in 2022, with shares often selling off in the last hour of the trading session. "On average, US equities have rallied into lunch time, but there's also been heavy selling late in the session," Bespoke Investment Group said in a note Thursday. The S & P 500 has on average fallen 0.16 percentage points in the last hour of trading this month, according to Bespoke's analysis through Wednesday's close. This month's average last-hour performance is in the bottom 1% of all months and the third-worst since 2000, Bespoke found. "We still have a ways to go in January, but the performance month-to-date in the last hour of the trading day is among the worst since our data for intraday performance begins back in the early 1980s," Bespoke said. Stocks were hit by another bout of late-day selling on Thursday. The S & P 500 traded sharply higher for most of the day — gaining as much as 1.5% at its session high — before closing down 1.1%. The bulk of the selling took place after 3 p.m. ET on Thursday. When there's a weak close, traders and technical analysts often worry about it and suggest it could mean further short-term weakness for stocks. Part of that fear is tied to an old maxim on Wall Street, which posits that the so-called dumb money buys in the morning and the bigger, institutional "smart money" waits to trade late in the session. The fear is, if the major averages continue to sell off in the final moments of the trading day, that could mean big investors are trying to get out of their positions in fear of a rough year for markets. So far, January's trading results suggest that could be the case, with the S & P 500 on track for its biggest one-month drop since 2020 and worst January since 2009. The S & P 500 is down roughly 7% this year. – CNBC's Nate Rattner contributed to this report.
A trader works inside a booth on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, January 18, 2022.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters
U.S. stocks are off to a rocky start in 2022, with shares often selling off in the last hour of the trading session.