Selling the September S&P 500 futures contract on or about July 17 and holding until on or about July 26 has a 60% success rate registering 21 wins against 14 losses in the last 35 years. The best win was $19,150 in 2002, and the worst loss was in 2009, posting a $12,650 bereavement. This trade had been successful in 13 of 15 years from 1990 to 2004. However since then it has nearly the opposite record, posting losses in 9 of 12 years from 2005-2016.
In these recent years, weakness did materialize however; it was not perfectly aligned with the window defined by this trade. In some years weakness arrived early and was fleeting while in other years it was later and lasted into the early part of August and beyond. In 2015 this trade returned and was nearly perfectly aligned with the seasonal trend. This year the setup is compelling as the market is struggling to breakout above resistance at recent all-time highs. Expectations for major reform by the new Republican administration are also in question. Congress is, and has been, bogged down in healthcare overhaul and little else has been done.
Looking at the chart above, you will see the average price tendency is for a summer sell-off that usually begins in mid-July and lasts until mid-October (blue arrow). This trade targets the initial part of weakness (shaded yellow). Part of the reason is perhaps due to the fact that July starts the worst four months of the year for NASDAQ and also falls in the middle of the worst six months for DJIA and S&P 500. Mid-July is also when we typically kick off earnings season, where a strong early month rally can fade, as active traders may have “bought the rumor” or bought ahead on anticipation of good earnings expectations and then turn around and “sell the news” once it hits the street.
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