September Phenomenon on Wall Street

Investors certainly appear to be making the most of a bad situation by clinging to any thread of good news and viewing losses such as experienced on Friday as not too bad. However, in a world where stock market players deal in practicalities and numbers, many will agree that they still experience a strange sense of foreboding as September approaches. Why? Well, co-incidence, sinister forces, collective psyche, call it what you will, history reveals that some bad things have happened in September, as far as the stock market is concerned. Most recently, Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy on 15 September 2008, becoming a reference point on which to pin the downward spiral of the economy and the realization that a financial crisis of global proportions was rising, triggering what turned out to be worst financial panic since the Great Depression.

Going quite a bit further back in time, experts agree that the 1929 stock market crash had its beginnings in September, although October became the pivotal month. In the following September, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 15 percent, while in September of 1931, the index plunged 30.7 percent – making it the worst September in the history of the Dow. The Standard & Poor’s 500 has also had some September setbacks, with September 1974 seeing a 12 percent drop and an 11 percent decline in September 2002. Moreover, the S&P 500 index historically drops an average exceeding one percent in September.

While some believe that September’s somewhat disappointing track record is as a result of investors having taken time out in the summer months to recharge their batteries, so to speak – and this may be backed up to an extent by summer’s light trading volumes. Others say it is mere co-incidence and that out of the twelve months of the year, one has to be the worst – it just happens to have been September. Still others warn that the anticipated disaster may, in fact, be a self-fulfilling prophecy – in which case it is up to stock market investors to break the pattern and reclaim September.