This Is How Stocks Usually Perform This Time of Year (and Thanksgiving in Particular)

Posted by jbrumley on November 20, 2021 11:13 AM

It's easy for traders to worry too much about the calendar. While there are certainly some seasonal tendencies we should respect, know that the "average" is an average of widely disparate inputs.

This reality check is a particularly important idea to acknowledge right now. While the end of the year is typically a bullish time for stocks -- and not necessarily a bearish time of year even during a bearish year -- this year's situation should give you pause. Namely, the market's miles ahead of where it should be as of late November. The S&P 500 is up 25.2% year to date, where, on average it would only be higher to the tune of 5.5%. Even when only counting bullish (non-bear-market) years, the S&P 500 is generally only up about 12.9% by this point. Take a look.

And if you look closely you can see this hasn't been the usual November. In most cases stocks steadily rally all month long, following through on an October reversal effort. Not this time though. October's gains were so strong they left the index even more overbought to start out this month, leaving little room for further upside. That's why the S&P 500 has struggled the past couple of weeks. Indeed, given how overextended stocks are, it leaves one wondering if there's any room for any of the usual upside we see through December.

With all of that being said, notice that this coming holiday week does act in a pretty reliable way no matter how stocks have performed trough this point of the year. That is, Thanksgiving week generally starts on a slightly bearish foot, but ends on a high note; the bullishness takes shape over the course of the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the half-session on Friday. It's not always a net-bullish week; that really depends on whether the market itself is in a bullish or bearish mode. But, the "V" shaped action is rather reliable.

That's certainly not an ironclad guarantee, of course. The market does strange things, and bucks trends when you don't expect it to. That could be what's in the cards this time around. Or, maybe not -- normal trading disciplines still apply. It's just good to be able to assess the current situation, and know where you stand versus the calendar's tendencies.