Will Stocks Suffer a Thanksgiving Hangover?

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Surrounded by a punch bowl of liquidity and a platter of optimism, investors have feasted on impressive gains in the stock market this year. All three major indices have defied expectations, but will the gravy train continue after Thanksgiving?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 are up more than 20 percent this year. The Dow has now set 43 all time highs in 2013, while the S&P 500 has made 37 record highs. The Nasdaq, which is still below its dotcom-bubble peak, crossed above 4,000 in November for the first time in over 13 years. Considering historical trends, the strength is set to continue.

Investors may want to be careful about how much profit they take off the table. Since 1950, December is the number one month for the S&P 500, and the second best month for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, according to Stock Trader’s Almanac. Both indices average a gain of 1.7 percent for December. Since 1971, December is also the second best month for the Nasdaq. When stocks experience a decline in December, it usually marks a turning point in the market, such as a top or bottom.

“Market trading in December is holiday inspired and fueled by a buying bias throughout the month,” explain Jeffrey Hirsch and Christopher Mistal from Stock Trader’s Almanac. “However, the first part of the month tends to be weaker as tax-loss selling and year end portfolio restructuring begins. Regardless, December is laden with market seasonality and important events.”

Despite the historic upside bias for December, the current fourth-quarter performance of the S&P 500 is well above average. As the chart below from Bespoke Investment Group shows, the S&P 500 has gained an average of 4.26 percent in the fourth-quarter since 1980 with Consumer Staples, Technology, and Healthcare leading the way. With one month left in the fourth quarter, the S&P 500 has already increased more than 7 percent.

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