April stock market performance

  • April positive for stocks 23 of past 30 years
  • Has been strongest Spring month in recent decades
  • Crude oil surges as OPEC cuts production

Last year may have ushered in the market’s worst April in a half century, but the fourth month of the year has been one of brighter spots on the stock calendar over the past three or so decades. The S&P 500 (SPX) has gained ground in April in all but 11 years since 1985, and all but eight since 1990:

Chart 1: S&P 500 (SPX) April returns, 1985–2022. Eight negative Aprils since 1990.

Source: Power E*TRADE. (For illustrative purposes. Not a recommendation.)

Aside from last April’s 8.8% loss, the SPX has fallen more than 5% in April only one other time since 1985, and its 2.3% average return over the most recent 20 years has been the largest of any month of the year.1

Of course, the question will be whether the market can sustain its upward momentum after what turned out to be a relatively strong Q1—the 10th-largest SPX return since 1985, in fact.

Market Mover Update: Crude oil prices surged on Monday after OPEC and its allies surprised the market with a new production cut—more than 1 million barrels/day—through the end of the year.2 Given anticipation of tighter supplies, May WTI crude oil futures jumped nearly 8% intraday to $81.69/barrel, although prices retreated below $81 later in the day.

Because energy costs impact every level of the economy, higher oil prices could potentially exacerbate inflation—which could make the Federal Reserve more cautious about pausing its rate-tightening cycle. While the odds of a rate hike at the Fed’s May policy meeting were below 50% on Friday, they climbed to 56% on Monday.3

Biomea Fusion (BMEA) gave back some of last week’s 100%-plus rally on Monday, falling more than 10% intraday (see “Stock surges, options shift”).

Today’s numbers include (all times ET): Factory Orders (10 a.m.), Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (10 a.m.), vehicle sales.

Today’s earnings include: Acuity Brands (AYI), Lindsay (LNN), MSC Industrial (MSM), Resources Connection (RGP), Smart Global (SGH), Kura Sushi (KRUS).


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1 All figures reflect S&P 500 (SPX) monthly price data, 1985–2022. Supporting document available upon request.
2 Reuters. OPEC’s oil cut is less surprising than it looks. 4/3/23.
3 CME Group FedWatch Tool (www.cmegroup.com). 4/3/23.

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