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Mid-Term Election Year Volatility

Posted by Doug Hutchinson | CFA®, Director of Research and Trading

October 26, 2018

Historically, equity markets have been very volatile in mid-term election years. Since 1962, the S&P 500 has had an average intra-year pullback of 19% in mid-term election years.1 

In fact, equity market returns have historically been very tepid before Election Day in early November.  In mid-term election years since 1950, the market has returned an average of just 0.96% in the first 10 months of the year, but markets have typically rebounded in the final 2 months of the year, returning an average of 4.24% across November and December. 2

The recent market pullback has wiped out 2018 gains and the S&P 500 is now roughly flat for the year. Again, historically the first 10 months of a mid-term election year are typically flat only to see a relief rally in the final 2 months of the year once the results of the election are known with certainty.

Will history repeat itself in 2018? While it is nearly impossible to forecast stock market returns over a specific time frame (particularly for a brief 2-month window), there are reasons to be optimistic going forward:

Corporate earnings remain strong3:

81% of the 140 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported third quarter earnings (as of October 23, 2018) posted earnings per share that beat Wall Street expectations, with only 10.7% of companies reporting earnings below expectations.  Over the last 25 years, an average of 64% of companies reported earnings that beat Wall Street estimates with 21% of companies missing expectations.4

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