(USA TODAY) - Investors worried about the tight race for the White House should relax.
History shows that during presidential election years, November and December tend to be bullish months for stocks.
Stocks in the Standard & Poor's 500 index have risen 0.9%, on average, in November during election years dating back to 1928, according to data compiled for USA TODAY by Bespoke Investment Group. December has delivered even bigger gift-wrapped gains, with an average rise of 1.7%, ranking it No. 1 of all 12 months in years voters go to the polls to vote for president.
Paul Hickey, co-founder of Bespoke, predicts stocks will close out this year on a positive note.
"We would expect ... the market to rally following Election Day as some of the uncertainty from the market is lifted and the poor third-quarter earnings are digested," he says. Corporate earnings, of course, have been so-so, with only 62% of companies in the S&P 500 that have reported topping forecasts, in line with historical trends, Thomson Reuters data show. But only 39% of companies have beat expectations on revenue and sales, which suggest demand for goods and services in the economy remains tepid.
Wall Street hopes that once the next president is known, whether it be a second term for President Obama or a first term for Republican challenger Mitt Romney, many unanswered policy questions related to taxes, Wall Street regulation and health care will have more clear-cut answers.
Investors also say they will most likely have a better idea after the election if a grand bargain will be hatched between Democrats and Republicans in Congress to resolve the so-called "fiscal cliff." The cliff is a potential growth-stunting mix of tax hikes and government spending cuts that could occur Jan. 1 unless Congress acts to avert it.
"The U.S. presidential election should dominate the headlines" this week, Lewis Alexander, U.S. chief economist at Nomura, said in a client note titled, Hail to the chief.
The stock market's ups and downs this year have closely tracked the peaks and valleys normally associated with the fourth and final year of the so-called "presidential stock market cycle," Hickey says. There's typically an early-year rally, a spring setback, a summer rebound and another pullback in the fall, which normally sets the stage for a post-election rally.
Comparing stock charts from 2012 with historical patterns since 1928, the presidenial market pattern appears intact. The stock market rallied sharply from the start of the year through the spring. It then suffered a pullback of nearly 10% in late spring before rallying into October to fresh five-year highs, before cooling heading into the vote on Nov. 6.
Friday, the Dow fell 139 points, or 1.1%, to 13,093.16.
Courtesy of Bespoke, here are a few more November market tidbits of the past 100 years to consider as we go to the polls Tuesday:
• When a Democrat has won the election, the Dow has fallen 0.7%, on average in November, compared with a gain of 2.5% when a Republican took the White House.
• When the incumbent candidate has won re-election, the Dow has gained 1.3%. But when a Democrat incumbent won, the gain dwindled to 0.2%. When a challenger to a sitting president has won, the Dow has declined 0.1%.
• There has only been one time in the past 100 years when a Republican challenger has defeated a Democrat incumbent. That was in 1980, when Ronald Reagan beat Jimmy Carter. That year the Dow soared 7.5% in November.