“Sell on Rosh Hashanah, and buy on Yom Kippur” is one of the more obscure calendar-based trading rules that old-school Wall Streeters watch.
As he does every Septemeber, UBS’ veteran trader Art Cashin tells the story in “Cashin’s Comments.” He writes:
September Weakness And Rosh Hashanah — Tonight at sundown marks the start of Rosh Hashanah. Over 50 years ago, as I was starting out in Wall Street. I was lucky enough to be hired by a small, bright, aggressive firm where I learned unique things from some wonderful people. I thought they hired me because I was sharp, inquisitive and hard working. Some of the older salesmen, instead, used to joke that I was the “Shabbes Goy” – the only non-Jewish employee who could then man the phones on religious holidays. It was a joke (I think) but it gave an altar boy from Jersey City a chance to learn a little Yiddish and a touch of cultural traditions.
The way I learned it, you sell on Rosh Hashanah and buy back on Yom Kippur. The thesis, I was told, was that you wished to be free (as much as possible) of the distraction of worldly goods during a period of reflection and self-appraisal.
Later as I studied market cycles and economic cycles, I was struck that the oft-repeated September/October weakness (crop cycle/money float) often corresponded to the Rosh Hashanah tradition. Is it cultural coincidence or cultural overlap? Who knows! (And we’ve never had a Rosh Hashanah and a QE3.)
One last note on Rosh Hashanah. My late, lamented Irish mum, tended to see everything in a Celtic perspective – even Jewish New Years. She would say – “You better get up to the deli fast ’cause the Jewish people will be leaving early for ‘Rose of Shannon’.” Anyway, if it is your holiday, “Leshona Toyva Tikoseyvu!” Happy 5775!
It’s worth noting that last year the S&P 500 went up by 2.11% from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur.
However, historically the market does tend to drop during this time period. According to Bespoke Investment Group, it worked in eight of the previous 13 years.