Saturday, January 31, 2009

Worst January Ever

Stocks wrapped up their worst January on record with a final plunge on Friday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished January down 8.84% on the month. Previously, the worst January for the Dow had been that of 1916, when it fell 8.64%. Friday, the Dow dropped 148.15 points to 8000.86 after briefly dipping below the 8000 mark. The Dow has fallen five straight months and in 12 of the last 15.

The S&P 500-stock index lost 2.28% Friday to end at 825.88, for cumulative losses in January of 8.57%. Until Friday, its worst January from 1929 onward occurred in 1970, when it lost 7.65%.

Both stock-market indexes are off by more than 40% from their 2007 highs.

Historically, stocks' January performance has been thought of as an informal indicator for the market's direction the rest of the year. When the S&P declines in January, the index loses an average of 2.4% in the next 11 months, according to data going back to 1950 from Ned Davis Research. When the S&P climbs in January, the index posts an average gain of 12.3% in the next period.

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