A few sell in may articles…
Have you read any “sell in May and Go Away” articles? These articles suggest that returns from May to October are terrible. So bad, in fact, that you’d be better off just avoiding the whole mess altogether. I’ve included some of the better-written posts for your reading pleasure
Forbes: Sell in May and Go away?
Adam Sarhan opines that a bad jobs report and lackluster earnings will cause problems. But his title is clearly referring to the seasonal pattern.
It covers research in many countries and is enough to convince me to dig further.
Ken Roberts describes a difference in sectors, with retail, media, utilities, and defensive stocks enjoying the summer more than others.
CFA Institute: Sell in May and Go Away?
Joachim Klement, CFA, argues that it works. Of course, he does has an ulterior motive, he wants a summer vacation
All this reading made me very curious, and so I wanted to know…
Does sell in May actually work?
First, I create a screener that rebalances on the first of May, and the first of November. It uses the typical universe, where all stocks below $500,000 trading volume are excluded. We do this as a baseline, so we don’t get tricked by rebalancing effects.
Figure Rebalance May 1st and November 1st
Seems pretty much like a baseline to me. Let us knock out May through October. Notice the flat lines that run from May until November.
Figure Sell in May and go away
There’s something deeply pedantic in my desire to benchmark the other side of this coin. Nevertheless, here it is.
Figure Buy in May and stick around
Lots of time in the market gives you very little reward…
Is May itself special?
What if you just held stocks for June through October. Will you still have poor performance? This might happen to you if you read all the Sell in May articles people publish, cogitate, and realize much of May has left.
Figure Buy in June and stick around
Yup — still works. That’s one resilient strategy. It works even better than the original! It turns out, though, that you should buy in November. Waiting until December doesn’t work as well.
May in various sectors
Does this effect vary by sectors? Does it work in reverse for some sectors? If so, that would be handy, since we’d buy summer stocks in summer, and winter stocks otherwise.
First up, utilities (the first one is the summer performance, the other one is the winter performance):
Figure summer utilities
Figure winter utilities
So with an average utility stocks, you are better off holding the stock during summer than selling it. Still, most of the gains occur during the winter months.
Hmm… So if you should hold on to your utility stocks, does that mean there are sectors where the sell-in-may effect is even worse? The answer is yes! Otherwise the Sell in May effect would be known as the Hold and Underperform Mildly in May effect. First up, we highlight tech stocks (summer first, winter second).
Figure summer technology
Figure winter technology
With technology stocks, holding all such stocks in the summer months would have lost you 50% of your money! Though, there are sectors that are even worse during the summer…
Figure summer transportation
Figure winter transportation
When holding transportation stocks only in the summer, you lost a 64% of your initial value. Eeeks! In fact, when we ran our simulation, it was a bad idea to hold stocks in the following sectors: Technology, Transportation, Basic Materials, Energy, Industrials, or Consumer Cyclicals sectors. All of these sectors distinguished themselves by actually losing money during the summer. It almost seems like there’s a way to measure the seasonality of an industry or group. If so, we can sort our portfolios to avoid the seasonal industries, market cap segments, etc when the season is wrong.
Enjoy your summer,