At Rotary Club of Independence on Tuesday, we heard Randolph G. Russell, a musician and businessman by past vocations. Now he is a historian and author by choice. He travels and encourages Americans to take up the cause of protecting our cultural heritage by promoting knowledge of our history to young and old alike. His book is “History in No Time.”
With respect to financial markets, those engaged in the industry are legally bound by federal law to warn that past performance is no guarantee of future results. Even if you are not financially literate, hopefully you have seen or heard this. With respect to perhaps a broader range of topics, Patrick Henry said I know of no way of judging the future but by the past. This was in addition to, Give me liberty or give me death!
I happen to agree with President Truman’s declaration that the only thing new in the world is the history you do not know. Therefore, I will today briefly share a bit of the history of the month of August in relation to the American stock market.
From 1901 through 1951, the farm harvests or their outlooks made August the best month of the year. In more recent decades, it has produced some of the worst results. On average, it is the 10th worst month for the Dow Jones Industrials Index, and the 11th for both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq indices.
This year, August is reinforcing that observation. The S&P 500 appears to be lower by 1.8 percent through Tuesday. The NASDAQ Composite Index and the DJ 30 have lost 1.94 and 2.17 percent month to date. (These numbers do not consider any dividends.) Furthermore, when there have been summer rallies for stocks, on average those of the summer (8.9 percent), are fourth in line behind those of winter (12.9), spring (11.3) and fall (11).
If you are at least an occasional reader of this column, you know I am an optimist by present nature. I like to focus upon the history of best results usually come during the period of the fourth quarter of any given year and the first quarter of the next.
Why do these matters lend themselves to statistical probabilities? In my opinion, the causes lie with our human natures and psychology. Every new challenge to our general economic lives – whether unrest in Hong Kong, changes in national currency values, fears of Mideast war, outrageous President Trump tweets – causes various individual and mass effects in the values of companies, and therefore their stock prices.
One of the reasons I love to study economic and financial cycles is that the developments are always new and different while the principles remain the same. There is hardly ever a dull moment. As the title of the book of the late comedienne, Gilda Radnor, cited, “It’s Always Something!”