Tony Hazell 

Shivers signal a correction is coming

Tony Hazell

Tony Hazell

So here we are in September – the month when the stock market grim reaper so often seems to come calling.

To add to the sense of foreboding we have the leader of the free world in a slanging match with the North Korean dictator while Texas gradually vanishes underwater.

So what is it about September that so often gives stock markets the shivers?

While October marks the 30th anniversary of the scariest crash in my lifetime, September has by a significant margin been the most volatile month of the year for investors since 2000, according to The Harriman Stock Market Almanac. 

The average September return on the FTSE All Share from 1982 to 2015 was minus 1.1 per cent and since 2000 it was minus 1.9 per cent.

Mid caps tend to take a greater battering than the bigger stocks in September.

The pattern is similar across the Atlantic where since 1950 the Dow Jones Industrial Average posted an average September decline of 1.1 per cent. The Nasdaq has fallen an average of 1 per cent in the month since it was established in 1971.

Last year followed a similar trend. After some unsettling ups and down the S&P 500 finished September down 0.12 per cent.

The FTSE All Share climbed, but this was an exceptional year due to sterling’s fall.

The most common reason offered is that the "grown ups" come back to work after a summer break of low trading volumes and September is when they get out of stocks or positions they held through the summer. Hence trading volumes go up and share prices fall.

But in these days of constant office contact via smart phones, should it really still be the case that the business of analysis and investing grinds to a halt for six weeks in the summer?

This bull run has lasted for about eight and half years, making it the second longest since World War II, leading to a flood of predictions that a correction is coming.

Personally, I have chosen the path of the venerable Ian Cowie who has told his Sunday Times readers that he is no longer reinvesting income in the hope of accumulating cash to pick up bargains later in the year.

This may not be the month a correction occurs, but history and world events suggest we should brace ourselves – just in case.

Do more to stop fraud 

Fraud against individuals is often not taken seriously enough. Even the word “scam” implies something low key.

My local newspaper recently carried the story of two shoplifters sentenced to eight weeks in prison for stealing, among other things, a packet of screwdrivers and a tank of petrol.

Yet pensioners robbed of their life savings via an internet or phone scam can find it very difficult to get a proper investigation.