August Is Worst Performing Month Since 1988


Money flows from harvesting made August a great stock market month in the first half of the Twentieth Century. It was the best month from 1901 to 1951. In 1900, 37.5% of the population was farming. Now that less than 2% farm, August is amongst the worst months of the year. It is the worst DJIA and S&P 500 month since 1987 with average declines of 1.3% and 1.0% respectively. August is also the worst month for NASDAQ (–0.3%) and Russell 2000 (–0.7%) over the same time period.

Contributing to this poor performance since 1987; the shortest bear market in history (45 days) caused by turmoil in Russia, the Asian currency crisis and the Long-Term Capital Management hedge fund debacle ending August 31, 1998 with the DJIA shedding 6.4% that day. DJIA dropped a record 1344.22 points for the month, off 15.1%—which is the second worst monthly percentage DJIA loss since 1950. Saddam Hussein triggered a 10.0% slide in August 1990. The best DJIA gains occurred in 1982 (11.5%) and 1984 (9.8%) as bear markets ended. Sizeable back-to-back declines in 2010 and 2011 have widened Augusts’ average losses.

In midterm years since 1950, Augusts’ rankings improve slightly: #10 DJIA, #9 S&P 500, #12 NASDAQ (since 1974), #8 Russell 1000 and #11 Russell 2000 (since 1982). Average losses range from 0.6% for Russell 1000 to 2.8% for Russell 2000. DJIA suffered double-digit losses in 1974, 1990 and 1998.

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