Should ETF Investors 'Sell in May and Go Away?' | ETF Trends

The equities markets have been stuck in choppy trading lately, but they are still holding above their long-term trends. Still, we are coming into a generally weak market season, and exchange traded fund investors may be tempted to follow the old adage: sell in May and go away.

The general idea is that investors will be too busy playing during the summer time to think about the markets, so it is probably better to just sell their positions in May and wait it out until everyone is forced back to work by November. Typically, between the months of May through October, investors would shift positions into cash or invest into safer government securities.

The strategy worked in 2010 and 2011, and the “sell in May and wait until November to reenter the stock market” strategy has historically worked, especially turning times when the Fed is tightening its monetary policies, or increasing interest rates, according to the Wall Street Sector Selector.

Additionally, research has revealed that the adage also works best when we are in a bear market as opposed to a bull market.

Still, during bullish market years, stock gains during the May through October months were higher than those of bearish years – diminishing the effects of the “sell in May and go away” strategy, but still lower than the months between November and April. Additionally, the strategy has not worked during times when the Fed has eased its monetary policies, or reduced short-term interest rates.

So now, investors will have to determine what type of market they think we are currently in now. The stock market has been on a bull run up until early April after the poorer-than-expected jobs numbers. GDP growth is relatively weak. Home sales are still not quite up to pre-financial crisis levels.