January Effect

The seasonal increase in stock prices throughout the month of January

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What is the January Effect?

The January Effect is known to be a seasonal increase in stock prices throughout the month of January. The increase in demand for stocks is often preceded by a decrease in price during the month of December, often due to tax-loss harvesting. An alternative reason for the rise in demand is the effect of year-end bonuses individuals receive that are invested in the market.


January Effect


  • The January Effect is a tendency for increases in stock prices during the beginning of the year, particularly in the month of January.
  • The cause behind the January Effect is attributed to tax-loss harvesting, consumer sentiment, year-end bonuses, raising year-end report performances, and more.
  • The January Effect appears to affect small-cap stocks more than large-cap stocks, which is apparent when comparing the historical values of the Russell 2000 with the Russell 1000.

Understanding the January Effect

The January Effect appears to affect small-cap companies more than mid- or large-cap companies due to their lower liquidity. Some economists postulate that the January effect substantiates the fact that markets are inefficient, as efficient markets stem from the belief that higher returns are only possible by taking on higher-risk stocks.

Analyzing data from the beginning of the 20th century, it has been found that a variety of asset classes had outperformed the market during the month of January, which led to the belief that the January Effect indeed exists. However, over time, especially in recent years, the markets have begun to adjust to the phenomenon.

Furthermore, at the beginning of 2018, more individuals have begun using tax-sheltered retirement plans and have less purpose to sell at the end of the year to receive a tax loss.


Additional Drivers Behind the January Effect

Beyond the hypothesis of tax-loss harvesting and bonuses, it appears that the January Effect may also be driven by consumer sentiment. As January is the beginning of a new year, many investors believe that the start of the year is the best time to begin investing for their future, under a clean slate.

Another reason may perhaps stem from the fact that mutual fund managers hope to purchase and retain top-performing stocks within their portfolio and eliminate losers in order to heighten their year-end performance reports.


Past Studies and Comments

Based on a study that analyzed data between 1904 and 1974, the average return for stocks during January was approximately five times greater than any other remaining months throughout the year. In fact, Salomon Smith Barney performed an analysis behind stock performance between 1972 to 2002 and learned that small-cap stocks outperformed large-cap stocks during January.

Efficient market theorists believe that modern markets are too efficient for the January Effect to affect trading. That is, investors would anticipate such an effect and purchase stocks in December, as others begin to sell, which would ultimately offset the discrepancy and result in equilibrium.


The January Effect in Recent News

For 2020, January was both a good and bad month for investing. While 10 of the 23 countries within the MSCI World Index of global developed markets generated positive returns, more than half lost their money. For example, Portugal was up 6.1%, while Austria was down 5%.


Essential Knowledge to Prepare for the January Effect

As an investor, it is important to understand the fundamentals of a company to be better equipped when making decisions during the January spike. It involves researching the company’s financial health, such as revenues, growth potential, and profit margins, along with other aspects such as management, market position, and more.

Understanding the key elements above will help comprehend price swings and movements and ultimately provide greater confidence in the stock picks that yield higher capital appreciation potential.

Additional Resources

CFI is the official provider of the global Capital Markets & Securities Analyst (CMSA)® certification program, designed to help anyone become a world-class financial analyst. To keep advancing your career, the additional resources below will be useful:

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