Learn More About January Effect: Definition and Causes

Learn More About January Effect

What is January Effect?

The January Effect is a calendar anomaly in the market where stock prices tend to increase slightly more during January than any other month of the year. It happens especially with those small-cap companies. The point is we should not confuse this theory with the January barometer, which argues that the performance of stocks in January is a leading indicator of stock performance throughout the year.

Understanding January Effect

The theory of the January effect implies that markets are inefficient as a whole because efficient markets would automatically eliminate this effect. Simply, it is an assumption that the stock market rises more in January than in any other month. Traders believe that it is an excellent opportunity for them. Generally, they buy stocks for a lower price and sell them when their value increases. It is quite a simple thing for some traders. However, other traders are looking to buy or sell stocks around that time of the year.

Why Does January Effect Happen?

The January Effect occurs when investors sell winners in December to avoid paying year-end capital gains taxes and then use the proceeds to bet on poorer performers in January. There is no exact reason why this effect happens. However, there are several causes for it.

Others say the January impact happens as people receive year-end bonuses in January and invest in the stock market. The employee pension and 401k plan contributions at the end of the year can be another factor for this theory. It might also result from local and foreign investors using the new year as a reminder to make investments in their registered accounts. Canadian investors, for example, are permitted to add more funds to their tax-free savings accounts (TFSAs) every year.

In other words, tax-loss harvesting, repurchases, and investors putting cash bonuses into the market are the main drivers of the January Effect.

The January Effect occurred several times in the past. However, there have been years when there were moderate stock declines in January; severe declines are not expected. Fluctuations are considerably more modest now than in the middle of the twentieth century.

Study and Critics

Burton Malkiel, an ex-Director of the Vanguard Group, has questioned the January Effect. In his opinion, such seasonal oddities don’t give investors solid chances. He also claims that it has a very low influence and is costly due to transaction expenses. It’s also been stated that too many people are anticipating the January Effect, causing it to be priced into the market and, therefore, nullifying it.

The January Effect has been inconsistent in recent years for US stock markets. It’s possible that the effect exists in other asset classes or in less developed economies where the market is less efficient (as it was once in the US small-cap companies). However, researchers have come up with conflicting results.


The January Effect is a calendar hypothesis concerning market fluctuations. It is impossible to forecast which particular year it will occur or how prominent it will be. Those considering attempting to profit from it should proceed with caution.

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