by Gary Alexander

February 28, 2023

“In the garden, growth has it seasons. First comes spring…. Yes, there will be Growth in Spring.”

– Peter Sellers as Chance the gardener, addressing the U.S. President in “Being There” (1979)

The 1971 novel and 1979 movie “Being There” portray a simple gardener who inherits his master’s classy wardrobe and is mistaken for a wise economic advisor. When the U.S. President asks “Chance the gardener” (heard as “Chauncey Gardiner”) if he should draft an aggressive stimulus program, Chance rambles on about the seasonal cycle, quoted above, which the President interprets as economic wisdom.

Whenever I hear ramblings by Fed officials, I think of Peter Sellers in “Being There.” I guess the fact that Gardner Ackley was Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors from 1964 to 1968 under President Lyndon Baines Johnson helped to create the verisimilitude necessary to see a Gardner as a guru.

Peter Sellers as Chance, The Gardener, Image

Chauncey Gardiner was right. There is more growth in the stock market in the Spring than the other three seasons. Since 2000, March through May averaged 3.4% gains, while June through August averaged 0.9% and September through November delivered 1.9% and the winter (December to February) froze your wealth at -0.5%, according to data compiled by Liberated Stock Trader.

I took the time to compile the data for Mach and April myself, for verification. There was a dry spell at the start of the Century, during the bubble, and also during the last five years, partly due to COVID, but the March-April months since 2000 still averaged just over 3% gains:

March-April S&P 500
2000 +6.29%
2001 +0.77%
2002  -2.69%
2003 +9.01%
2004  -3.29%
2005  -3.88%
2006 +2.34%
2007 +5.37%
2008 +4.13%
2009 18.74%
2010 +7.44%
2011 +2.74%
2012 +2.36%
2013 +5.47%
2014 +1.32%
2015  -0.90%
2016 +6.89%
2017 +1.04%
2018  -2.42%
2019 +5.79%
2020  -1.41%
2021 +9.71%
2022  -5.53%
Average: +3.01%
Source: Yahoo Finance

Notice the 9-year winning streak in the middle (2006 to 2014), when March and April averaged nearly 5% gains. Despite some dry spells, March and April have been fairly consistent over the last 10, 20, and 70 years, according to research by Bespoke Investment Group, the Investors Almanac, and LPL Research:

This chart from LPL Research, using data from FactSet, shows March and April leading (as a tandem) over the 10 years covered (2008 to 2017), tied for the lead (with October and November) over the latest 20 years covered (1998 to 2017), and trailing only November/December since 1950.

Two of the Strongest Months for Equities Bar Chart

Graphs are for illustrative and discussion purposes only. Please read important disclosures at the end of this commentary.

Why so fruitful in the Spring? March and April are seasonally strong for the same basic reason that November and December are strong – good seasonal tidings and some tax relief. The Thanksgiving-to-New Year’s season brings feasting, football, family, and tax-related trading. Likewise, the nation is revived by good feelings in March and April as days get longer (set your clocks forward on March 12), the air warms, our heating bills come down, flowers begin budding, and many offices become transfixed with rivalries over March Madness – which starts today with five conference basketball tournaments.

This year, we get to sleep in on Tax Day, as April 15 falls on a Saturday; April 16 is a Sunday and April 17 is a worker’s holiday in Washington DC – the city that observes more days off (for government workers) than any city in America. It’s Emancipation Day, to be celebrated on Monday, April 17, so our tax filings are due April 18 (Boston’s Patriot’s Day), giving you a long holiday weekend to finish taxes.

But Wait, There’s More! Double Your Returns in a Pre-Election Year!

I hate to sound like a late-night infomercial, since we can’t make promises, but this is a special year….

As of last Friday, February 24, we were right on schedule for the typical calendar performance. January was strong (+6.2%) in the S&P 500, and February fell a bit (-2.6%), netting a 3.4% gain year-to-date.

But this is still the “sweet spot” of the Presidential cycle, when gains are so spectacular from the mid-term election (November 2022 in this cycle) to June 30 of the next year. How does the March-April pairing do in those two years? I’ve looked at these two months in every year since 1957, when the S&P became 500 companies. In those 16 four-year cycles, the two early spring months were positive 15 times, with the sole exception being less than one percent (-0.90% in 2015), with an average two-month gain of 5.7%.

March-April S&P 500
1959 +3.93%
1963 +8.57%
1967 +8.33%
1971 +7.44%
1975 +7.00%
1979 +5.69%
1983 11.06%
1987 +1.46%
1991 +2.25%
1995 +5.51%
1999 +7.82%
2003 +9.01%
2007 +5.37%
2011 +2.74%
2015  -0.90%
2019 +5.79%
Average gain +5.70%
Data source: Yahoo Finance

According to the 2022 Stock Trader’s Almanac, the average monthly returns for the month of March since 1950 are +1.0% and April averages +1.6%, for a total of about 2.6%.  Going back to 1950, the pre-election year average for March/April is +5.4%, so the pre-election year gains are more than twice the average gain of the last 72 years for those two months, showing how consistently powerful this cycle is.

No promises, but Chauncey the gardener says Spring is the time for growth. Who can argue with him?

All content above represents the opinion of Gary Alexander of Navellier & Associates, Inc.

Please see important disclosures below.

About The Author

Gary Alexander

Gary Alexander has been Senior Writer at Navellier since 2009.  He edits Navellier’s weekly Marketmail and writes a weekly Growth Mail column, in which he uses market history to support the case for growth stocks.  For the previous 20 years before joining Navellier, he was Senior Executive Editor at InvestorPlace Media (formerly Phillips Publishing), where he worked with several leading investment analysts, including Louis Navellier (since 1997), helping launch Louis Navellier’s Blue Chip Growth and Global Growth newsletters.

Prior to that, Gary edited Wealth Magazine and Gold Newsletter and wrote various investment research reports for Jefferson Financial in New Orleans in the 1980s.  He began his financial newsletter career with KCI Communications in 1980, where he served as consulting editor for Personal Finance newsletter while serving as general manager of KCI’s Alexandria House book division.  Before that, he covered the economics beat for news magazines. All content of “Growth Mail” represents the opinion of Gary Alexander

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