Down in the dumps over the sluggish market? Perk up. Since 1900, the Dow Jones industrial average has increased an average of 11 percent between June and December in presidential election years. And, as Dan Sullivan points out in the July 1 issue of the Chartist, "In the 13 election years since 1952, the stock market has risen 12 times during the last seven months of the year." If that bit of seasonal history sounds good, here's better: Based on the decennial, or 10-year, cycle, "the fifth year of a decade has been extraordinary," writes Sullivan in his newsletter. Actually, he's understating the case. The Stock Trader's Almanac looked at the 12 decades since 1881-1890 and found that the Dow rose in each and every year ending in a five (a record matched by no other digit; in second place were years ending in "8," which produced increases 10 times). More remarkable, the average gain in years ending in "5" was a stunning 31 percent (again, years ending in "8" were second, at a distant 19 percent; no other digit produced gains averaging better than 9 percent). The final bit of numerology is that the year ending in "5" was the best year of the entire decade in six of the 12 such periods since 1881 and ranked second in three of the decades. Here's the big question: Is all of this stuff a coincidence, or can you bet money on "5" coming up a winner once more in 2005? I really have no idea. It's hard to come up with a good explanation for such gloriously consistent quintessence; on the other hand, buy-and-hold investors are going to be owning their shares next year anyway. What to own? Sullivan, a market timer with a fabulous record, has been bullish since April of last year. Among the holdings in his model portfolio: Avon Products Inc. (AVP), Bear Stearns & Co. (BSC), Clorox Corp. (CLX), Gilead Sciences Inc. (GILD), Tyson Foods Inc. (TSN) and Yahoo Inc. (YHOO).
-- James K. Glassman