Santa Claus was a no-show. And that’s a bearish sign for 2024.

You see, the last five trading days of the old year and the first two trading days of the New Year make up the “Santa Claus Rally” period. This is typically one of the strongest one-week periods in the market – averaging a gain of 1.3%.

Most of the time, when the Santa Claus Rally generates a big gain, the market performs well the following year. Indeed, over the past 72 years, whenever the Santa Claus Rally period was positive, the S&P 500 went on to gain an average of 10.4% over the next year.

That’s why all of the financial television talking heads were so giddy last week. The stock market was grinding higher. The S&P 500 was approaching all-time highs. And, just about everyone talked about how the Santa Claus Rally was such a bullish omen for 2024.

Over the past few trading days, though, Santa took a detour. And the talking heads have gone silent.

On Wednesday, the S&P 500 closed 80 points below last Thursday’s high. It lost just over 1% during the traditionally bullish Santa Claus Rally period. 

In the words of Yale Hirsch, the creator of Stock Trader’s Almanac who first noted the Santa Claus Rally period, “If Santa should fail to call, bears may come to Broad and Wall.”

The New York Stock Exchange, of course, is located at the corner of Broad and Wall Streets in New York. And, since Santa didn’t show up there this year, Mr. Hirsch would suggest the gains for the coming year will be somewhat muted.

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This most recent period is only the 16th time since 1950 that Santa hasn’t shown up on Wall Street. The average annual return following the previous 15 times was 4.1%.

That’s not negative. So, maybe we shouldn’t get too bearish.

But, a 4.1% return is a far cry from the 10.4% average gain following the positive rally years. Heck, my money market fund pays better than that – without the systemic risk of being in the stock market.

Of course, past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Anything can happen. And we shouldn’t place too much emphasis on any one indicator.

Last week, though, just about all of the talking heads were pointing to the potential for a Santa Claus Rally as a reason for investors to rush into the market or risk being left behind. Maybe now we should consider using Santa’s failure to appear as a reason to take a step back, calmly assess the situation, and perhaps wait for a more opportune moment to put our hard-earned money to work.

Best regards and good trading,


Jeff Clark
Editor, Market Minute