Santa Fails to Call, But Trifecta 2 Out of 3 Ain’t Bad
By: Jeffrey A. Hirsch & Christopher Mistal
January 03, 2024
On the heels of last year’s momentous rally, the market is showing some signs of weakness causing the Santa Claus Rally to fail to materialize. Profit taking in January has become more commonplace in the last 25 years or so and January is notably softer in election years like 2024. Some profit taking is understandable following the massive rally from the end of October ranging from just over 16% for DJIA and S&P 500 to 19.9% for NASDAQ and 26.2% for Russell 2000 at their respective recent highs just before yearend. But the selling over the past few days is notable and a warning sign.
Defined in the Stock Trader’s Almanac, the Santa Claus Rally (SCR) is the propensity for the S&P 500 to rally the last five trading days of December and the first two of January with an average gain of 1.3% since 1950. This indicator was discovered and first published by Yale Hirsch in the 1973 edition of the Almanac.
The lack of a rally can be a preliminary indicator of tough times to come. This was certainly the case in 2008 and 2000. A 4.0% decline in 2000 foreshadowed the bursting of the tech bubble and a 2.5% loss in 2008 preceded the second worst bear market in history. Down SCRs were followed by flat years in 1994, 2005 and 2015, and a mild bear that ended in February 2016. Of the 15 down SCRs since 1950, 10 years have been up and 5 down, but the average gain is a measly 5.0%. As Yale Hirsch’s now famous line states, “If Santa Claus should fail to call, bears may come to Broad and Wall.
[Down SCR]
With the Santa Claus Rally a no show we will be watching for a positive First Five Days (FFD) and January Barometer (JB), the second and third legs of our January Indicator Trifecta. Since 1950 there have been only three occurrences when SCR was down and both the FFD and JB were positive. Two out of three of those years were up over 20% and 1994 was a flat -1.5% with a 14.8% average gain on all three. 
Since there are only three down SCR years with up FFDs and JBs we present to you the other years with one of the Trifecta components down and the other two up. Of these 18 years 14 years were up and 4 were down with an average gain of 7.9%. So, as we said 2 out of 3 ain’t bad when it comes to our January Indicator Trifecta. 
Remember: if these seasonal indicators are negative and the market does not rally as it normally does during this time, we will likely shift to a less bullish posture – if not outright bearish. 
[2 out of 3 Table]