March Almanac & Vital Stats: Stronger in Pre-Election Years
By: Jeffrey A. Hirsch & Christopher Mistal
February 16, 2023
As part of the Best Six/Eight Months, March has historically been a solid performing month with DJIA, S&P 500, NASDAQ, Russell 1000 & 2000 all advancing more than 63% of the time with average gains ranging from 0.7% by NASDAQ to 1.1% by S&P 500. Over the recent 21-year period, March has tended to open well with gains accumulating over its first three trading days. A brief bout of weakness follows before all indexes begin moving modestly higher into mid-month through month’s end.
Julius Caesar failed to heed the famous warning to “beware the Ides of March” but investors have been served well when they have. Stock prices have had a propensity to decline, sometimes rather precipitously, during the latter days of the month. In March 2020, DJIA plunged nearly 4012 points (-17.3%) during the week ending on the 20th. Solid late-March gains in 2009 and again in 2020 have improved average second half of March performance, but most bullish days are still in the first half of the month (see March 2023 Strategy Calendar).
[Recent 21-Year March Seasonal Pattern Chart]
March packs a rather busy docket. It is the end of the first quarter, which brings with it Triple Witching and an abundance of portfolio maneuvers from The Street. March Triple-Witching Weeks have been quite bullish in recent years. But the week after is the exact opposite, DJIA down 22 of the last 35 years—and frequently down sharply. In 2018, DJIA lost 1413 points (–5.67%) Notable gains during the week after for DJIA of 4.88% in 2000, 3.06% in 2007, 6.84% in 2009, 3.05% in 2011 and a staggering 12.84% in 2020 are the rare exceptions to this historically poor performing timeframe. 
Historically a solid performing month, March performs even better in pre-election years (see Vital Statistics table below). In pre-election years March ranks: 4th best for DJIA, S&P 500, NASDAQ, and Russell 1000 (January, April and December are better). Pre-election year Marchs rank #5 for Russell 2000. Pre-election year March has been up 14 out of the last 15 for DJIA – up 13 for 13 1963-2011. Coming into 2019, the Russell 2000 had a perfect, 10-for-10 winning record, but is now 10 and 1 after falling 2.3% that March.
[Pre-Election Year March Performance]
Saint Patrick’s Day is March’s sole recurring cultural event. Gains on Saint Patrick’s Day have been greater than the day before and the day after. Perhaps it’s the anticipation of the patron saint’s holiday that boosts the market and the distraction from the parade down Fifth Avenue that causes equity markets to languish. Or maybe it’s the fact that Saint Pat’s usually falls in historically bullish Triple-Witching Week. 
Whatever the case, since 1950, the S&P 500 posts an average gain of 0.28% on Saint Patrick’s Day (or the next trading day when it falls on a weekend), a gain of 0.05% the day after and the day before averages a 0.10% advance. S&P 500 median values are 0.17% on the day before, 0.23% on Saint Patrick’s Day and 0.03% on the day after. In the ten years when St. Patrick’s Day fell on a Friday, like this year, since 1950, the day before (Thursday) produced an average gain of 0.89%, while Friday averaged –0.01% and the following Monday averaged –0.08%.
[March Vital Stats Table]