The hostile monetary backdrop makes recent stock market exuberance even more irrational than in early 2021. Yet, this is the middle of a seasonal window that historically boasts an elevated level of craziness: It is the year preceding a presidential election—a time when monetary and fiscal stimulus are ramped up.
Our Major Trend Index has four factor categories, and three of them (Valuation, Cyclical, Technical) remain negative. Yes, the bearish “trifecta.” If that sounds like a reprint of one of our Monday MTI memos, bear with us (pun intended). We thought the MTI—with over 125 inputs—was pretty exhaustive. It turns out that it’s lacking entire categories pertinent to stock market action:
We’ve reminded dejected readers throughout 2022 that this year was statistically “cursed” from the onset. It’s a year ending in “2” and a Shmita year on the Jewish calendar, both of which have been associated with far below average stock market returns. More importantly, it’s a midterm election year, traditionally the weakest of the four-year cycle.
We scrutinized the typical path of money growth during the four-year presidential election cycle, and found that it typically tends to bottom out in October of the midterm year! The cycle says a monetary pivot is imminent, and the average pattern traced out by M2 suggests an acceleration in the growth rate of about 2.5% leading up to the presidential election.
Does the market’s poor YTD performance prior to the six-month “Sell in May” combined with the Presidential Election Cycle help “inoculate” it against a typical mid-year, mid-term swoon? Yes, there’s some evidence to support that view—especially with Small Caps.
Next month kicks off the seasonally-weak phase of the stock market’s Annual Cycle: May-October. Overlaid on that is the statistically vulnerable stretch of the four-year Election Cycle: the “mid-point” of the Mid-Term Year. There’s a positive way to spin this mid-term malaise: The cycles imply that an ideal window for a major low is about to open.
In the March Green Book, we discussed the long history of stock market difficulties during mid-term election years. Incredibly, nine of the past 11 cyclical bear market lows have occurred in these years, with eight of those nine recorded during the seasonally-weak months of May through October (Table 1).
Our bearish stance could be tested by the arrival of the seasonally strongest six-month window of the four-year electoral cycle. Since 1926, November of the mid-term year through April of the pre-election year has produced an average un-annualized S&P 500 +16.4% total return.
“That which does not kill us, makes us stronger” might be a good motto for this never-ending bull market. The bull continues to shrug off the effects of both Quantitative Tightening and an escalating trade war, and it’s doing so during a seasonal stretch in which many of its predecessors have sunk to their knees (if not their demise).