Friday the 13th may be the unluckiest day of the year, but it's not generally a terrible day for stocks. Below is a bit of history on how markets move on the most superstitious of trading days.
Bespoke Investments looks at the last 183 Friday the 13ths going back to 1900 and the performance of the Dow. They say:
The average return on these days is a gain of 0.04% with positive returns 58.5% of the time. As shown, while the average return is better than all days, it is below the average gain we typically see on all Fridays. However, the 58.5% frequency of positive returns is better than the average for all days and all Fridays.
As for the last ten Friday the 13ths, Bespoke says the average return has been slightly negative, although the last four have all been positive. For more, plus tables of the returns check out Bespoke's blog.
Jason Zweig, who writes the WSJ's Intelligent Investor column, says it's usually a good day for investors and says superstition about trading on the unlucky day one of the market's "dumbest myths":
A lot of investors are still superstitious about Friday the 13th, regarding it as an unlucky day for the stock market. Just look, they say, at Friday the 13th of October, 1989, when the leveraged buyout of UAL fell apart, ending the junk-bond boom and knocking 6.9% off the Dow in one fell swoop. Or what about Friday the 13th of October, 2000, when the Heartland mutual funds wrote down their bond holdings, wiping away 69% of the net asset value of Heartland High-Yield Municipal Bond Fund in a single day?
But investors’ fear of Friday the 13th – christened paraskevidekatriaphobia – is not merely nonsense. It’s actually contradicted by the facts. On average, the stock market does not do worse on Friday the 13th; it does slightly better than average.
Time's Clare Suddath points out there's a real connection between Friday the 13th and the markets in her brief history of the day:
The number's association with Friday, however, didn't take hold until the 20th century. In 1907, eccentric Boston stockbroker Thomas Lawson published a book called Friday the Thirteenth, which told of an evil businessman's attempt to crash the stock market on the unluckiest day of the month. Thanks to an extensive ad campaign, the book sold well: nearly 28,000 copies within the first week. In 1916, the book was turned into a feature-length silent film.
Stocks are wavering so far. Let's hope a so far benign trading day lives up to its historical performance rather than its reputation.