Friday the 13th: Unlucky for Stocks?

The 'unlucky' date has boded well for the S&P 500 Index (SPX) in recent years

by Andrea Kramer

Published on Feb 12, 2015 at 2:18 PM
Updated on Apr 20, 2015 at 5:32 PM

Like full moons, black cats, and tail-up pennies, Friday the 13th has a bad rap. But has the day -- or the subsequent week -- been unlucky for the stock market? Let's crunch the numbers to see how the S&P 500 Index (SPX) has fared on these seemingly ominous days.

The number 13 is considered cursed -- as evidenced by the lack of a 13th floor at many hotels, or absence of a 13th gate at some airports -- in many cultures, though the root cause is up for debate. Many scholars, meanwhile, attribute the Friday part to Jesus' crucifixion. Combine the two -- and a campy movie franchise about a masked serial killer -- and voila: generations of paraskevidekatriaphobics.

However, where stocks are concerned, Friday the 13th has actually been positive in recent years. According to data from Schaeffer's Senior Quantitative Analyst Rocky White, this day has averaged an SPX return of 0.26% since 1990. For comparison, the SPX has averaged a Friday return of just 0.01%, an any-day return of only 0.03%, and a 13th-of-the-month return of 0.17%.

SPX Daily Returns Since 1990

Breaking that down even further, three of the past four Friday the 13ths have been positive. Plus, the lone outlier -- on Dec. 13, 2013 -- saw an arguably negligible dip for the broad-market barometer.

SPX Friday the 13th Returns

So, how do stocks perform after a positive or negative Friday the 13th? Although the SPX has enjoyed positive post-Friday the 13th weeks six straight times -- averaging a one-week gain of 1.4% -- stocks actually tend to fare slightly better after a dip on the ill-fated date. Following negative Friday the 13ths (there have been 15 since 1990), the index averages a weekly return of 0.71% and has been positive nearly three-quarters of the time. A positive Friday the 13th, though, is still encouraging, averaging a weekly return of 0.4% and positive 68% of the time.

SPX Friday the 13th Post-Week Returns

In conclusion, it seems Friday the 13th -- and the subsequent week -- has been relatively "lucky" for the SPX in recent years. Will it once again bode well this year, or will Presidents Day ruin everything?

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