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Sell in May and go away?

A popular trading adage for investors during May is “sell in May and go away”.   The strategy is that an investor would sell their stock holdings in May and get back into the equity market in November, thus avoiding a volatile May-October period.  

Obviously investors should ask themselves if selling out in May risks them not being in the market when the seasonally strong period for equities begins.  Timing the market is always difficult and seasonality strategies don’t always work.  The actual results can be very different from the theoretical ones.

In honor of May Day, the chart below shows investing in the S&P 500 during the six months of November through and including April (blue line) accounted for the majority of gains since 1950.  The overall subpar performance during the months of May through October (gold line) is hard to ignore.