The Tides of March

●March has historically been a solid, but not spectacular, bullish month

●March-May has been one of the strongest three-month periods of the year

After the hottest January-February for the S&P 500 (SPX) in a generation, traders have a new month to look forward to, even if it’s one that probably slips through the cracks of the market consciousness. There are no catchy phrases that go with March—no get ready for the “St. Patrick’s Day Rally,” or beware of the “Late-winter Doldrums.”

Maybe that’s because March has been relatively consistent. Over the past 50 years, March has closed up 64% of the time and has posted a 1.18% average return—fourth-best on both counts. To round out the picture, the following table also shows the SPX’s March returns since 1999 and 2009:

S&P 500 (SPX) March returns. S&P 500 historical performance for month of March. Solid numbers.

Source: Power E*TRADE

Although over the past 20 and 10 years March has closed higher slightly less frequently, its average returns have been a little higher. (The month is on a two-year losing streak, by the way.)

But March also kicks off what has been since 1969 the SPX’s third-strongest of all three-month periods of the year (January–March, February–April, March–May, etc.). With an average return of 3%, March-May trails only November-January (3.8%) and October-December (3.5%) in that department, and is one spot ahead of December-February (2.9%).

Now, given the market is coming off a record-breaking first two months of the year, it’s fair to wonder if some of March’s traditional bullishness could give way to what many traders likely see as a natural (and perhaps overdue) pullback.

But that doesn’t mean the historical performance of the entire March-May period should be overlooked.

Today’s numbers: Personal Income and Outlays (8:30 a.m.), PMI Manufacturing Index (9:45 a.m.), ISM Manufacturing Index (10 a.m.), Consumer Sentiment (10 a.m.).

Today’s earnings include: Colony Capital (CLNY), Dentsply Sirona (XRAY), Foot Locker (FL), Portola Pharma (PTLA), TEGNA (TGNA).


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