Will Santa return to rally investors’ spirits this December?

28 November 2019
 

With the festive season soon upon us, Christmas lights have started to appear across many high streets, shops are festooned with promotions and in the coming weeks the annual slew of work place parties – and hangovers - will take place.

Investors may also be hoping for some Christmas cheer in the form of a trend known as the “Santa Rally”, the nickname given to the tendency to see positive returns on stock markets during the month of December. Bestinvest, the leading online investment service, points out that last year the so-called Santa Rally was nowhere to be seen, in what was the worst December for global stock markets in 16 years, with major market across the globe sliding between -2.8% and -9.0% (see below).

Share price falls (in £ terms) in December 2018

US Equities (S&P 500 Index)

Japanese Equities
(Topix)

Global Equities (MSCI AC World Index)

European Equities (MSCI Europe ex UK)

UK Equities (MSCI United Kingdom)

Emerging Markets (MSCI Emerging Markets Index)

-9.0%

-7.1%

-7.0%

-4.8%

-3.7%

-2.8%

However, analysis by Bestinvest of the share price returns experienced in the month of December across range of global stock markets, looking at up to 50 years of data, to put the Santa Rally theory to the test has highlighted how unusual the losses in December 2018 were.

Index

% of times Markets rose in December

Median Return in month of December

Global Equities (MSCI AC World)

81%

1.57%

UK Equities (MSCI United Kingdom)

74%

1.40%

US Equities (S&P 500)

70%

1.26%

Emerging Markets (MSCI Emerging Markets)

68%

3.43%

European Equities (MSCI Europe ex UK)

67%

1.14%

Japanese Equities (Topix)

64%

2.39%

Source: Bestinvest / Lipper. Data represents capital return only and excludes the impact of dividends. Data is for periods December 1969 to December 2018 in respect of the Topix and S&P 500 indices, December 1970 to December 2018 for the MSCI Europe ex UK and MSCI United Kingdom indices and December 1988 to December 2018 for the MSCI AC World and MSCI Emerging Markets indices. 

The analysis confirms a very high incidence of positive returns on share prices during December, particularly in the case of UK shares, which have risen 74% of the time in December. While the frequency of rising prices is a little lower among Emerging Market share prices at 68% of the time, the median returns seen during the festive season have been the highest at +3.4%.

Jason Hollands, Managing Director of Bestinvest, commented: “The evidence suggests that – usually – Christmas is indeed a Merry time for investors and that the so-called Santa Rally is a very convincing phenomenon. Bear in mind that this is without factoring in the added benefit of any dividends received during the month.

“The question is: why this is the case? Could it really be down to the feel good factor of the ‘Magic of Christmas’? Probably not.

“The most plausible explanation is that at the end of the year, markets get a bit of a boost from professional fund managers reducing cash weightings in their funds to “window dress” their portfolios with shares that have performed well ahead of reporting periods to clients in the New Year. There may also be something of a similar affect, in recent decades, from hedge funds closing out bets on shares they think will fall – known as ‘shorting’ – which means having to buy shares they previously borrowed off other investors to make those bets and return the shares to the lenders.

“Of course there is no inevitably that markets will rise this December just because they often have in the past and no one should invest in the markets on a one-month view. Investing should be about the long-term.

”That said, this December could prove a notable one for the UK market in particular, as the clouds of political uncertainties have loomed large over it. If some of those anxieties lift following the General Election, we could see quite a sharp relief rally. UK shares are relatively cheap compared to most other developed stock markets, so if the risk of nationalisations clears and some form of orderly departure from the EU is in sight, sentiment should improve and we may see international investors start buying UK shares again.”  

Hollands tips Fidelity Special Situations, JO Hambro UK Dynamic and Jupiter Income as funds focused on identifying undervalued UK shares.

About Tilney

Tilney is a leading investment and financial planning group that builds on a heritage of more than 180 years.  Our clients are private investors, charities and professional intermediaries who trust us with over £23 billion of their assets. We offer a range of services including financial planning, investment management and advice and, through our Bestinvest service, a leading online platform for those who prefer to manage their own investments.

We have won numerous awards. Tilney has been awarded Best Conventional Advisory Service at the 2018 City of London Wealth Management Awards, Best Advisory Service in the 2015 City of London Wealth Management Awards; Investment Award – Cautious category in the Private Asset Management Awards; and Stockbroker of the Year, Execution-only Stockbroker of the Year and Self-select ISA Provider of the Year 2015, as voted by readers of the Financial Times and Investors Chronicle. Bestinvest was voted Best SIPP Provider and Best Fund Platform at the 2017 City of London Wealth Management Awards, Best Direct SIPP Provider at the YourMoney.com Awards 2017, Best Stocks & Shares ISA Provider at the 2017 Shares Awards, as well as Best Self Select ISA Provider, Best Online/Execution-only Stockbroker and Best Investment Platform 2017 at the FT and Investors Chronicle Investment and Wealth Management Awards, as voted by readers of the FT and Investors Chronicle.

Headquartered in Mayfair, London, the Tilney Group employs over 1,000 staff across our network of 30 offices, enabling us to support clients with a local service throughout the UK.