What is The Santa Claus Rally? How Do You Trade It?

Jitanchandra Solanki
12 Min read

At the end of every single year, both traders and investors gear up for a unique phenomenon in the markets called the Santa Claus Rally. In this article, we cover what the Santa rally is, the different causes that can contribute to this seasonal phenomenon and how to trade it.

What is the Santa Claus Rally?

What is the Santa Claus rally? The Santa rally is a term used to describe the seasonal tendency for the stock market to rally higher during the Christmas period. In the past, this tendency has also been called the Santa rally, December effect or Turn-of-Year effect.

The Christmas stock market rally also fits into the broader group of the Holiday effect. There are strong seasonal tendencies around all the major holidays for reasons that will become apparent when we look at the causes of the Santa Claus rally.

So when exactly is the Santa rally? Is it the whole of the month or just a few days of the month? To understand this phenomenon better it is important to understand the history of the Santa rally first and then look at the price chart of the stock market during this phenomenon.

Will There be a Santa Rally This Year?

The first evidence to be produced regarding a stock market Santa Claus rally was in 1942 when S.B. Wachtel presented it in the Journal of the Business of the University of Chicago. The analysis showed that there tended to be a rise in the stock market (using the Dow Jones Industrial Average index) from December to January from 1927 to 1942.

Since then, there have been many variations of the Santa rally, but the most popularised version and the one that still stands to this day is the research done by Yale Hirsch in 1972 and presented in the 1973 Stock Trader's Almanac. Hirsch discovered that the stock market rallied within the last five days of the year and the first two days in January.

The chart below shows the change in the percentage of the S&P 500 stock market index during the last five days of the year and the first two days of the new year:

Source: Data calculated from S&P 500 Index E-mini Futures Continuous Contract from TradingView, 11 December 2023

When it comes to analysing the Santa rally statistics, it is clear to see that there is a tendency for the stock market to rally during this period of time. Of note was the Santa Rally 2018 which performed well. While 2014 and 2015 were down years, the average of the 2008 to 2018 period is still positive.

However, it's important to note that the founder of this phenomenon, Yale Hirsch, would use this as a barometer of what could happen for the next year. The theory suggests that if the Santa Claus rally does not happen then the next year has a higher chance of being flat or negative. However, if the Santa Claus rally did happen, there is a higher chance of the next year being positive.

While this phenomenon did work in 2020 (as 2021 was a bullish year in the S&P 500 index), the bullish Santa rally in 2021 didn't help for the next year as the S&P 500 index ended lower in 2022.

When using historical data or seasonal tendencies it is also prudent to add more types of analysis when forecasting the market. For example, the Russia-Ukraine war and aggressive interest rate hikes were just two major factors why the stock market entered a bear market in 2022. 

However, the positive Santa Claus Rally at the end of 2022 did forecast this phenomenon for 2023 in which the S&P 500 index ended in the positive. Most of the bullish momentum in 2023, was at the end of the year in which traders forecasted lower interest rates in 2024. 

Advanced Trading Webinars

Discover the latest trading trends, get actionable strategies and enjoy complimentary tools.

Causes of the Santa Rally

There are a variety of different reasons why there is a seasonal tendency for the stock market to rally at year-end and over the Santa Claus rally's seven-day period. Some include:

▶️ Tax-loss harvesting is when investors sell stocks at a loss at the end of the year to offset capital gains tax. This means they are buying back their positions in the market causing weak stocks to rally higher which will naturally push up the strong stocks on momentum flows.

▶️ More people are also on holiday during this period of time which means many large institutional investors will not be at their desks. This could result in less active short sellers being present in the market, leaving long-only algorithms for mutual funds to keep buying the dips for investors' portfolios.

▶️ End-of-year bargain hunting also takes place as investors focus on what to put in their portfolios for the next year. This is why value stocks can have a tendency to outperform towards year-end as investors bank gains on growth stocks and put some back into value stocks which present a greater reward to risk over the long term.

▶️ It could also just be a self-fulfilling prophecy! Traders and investors are always looking for an edge in the market. While year-end optimism, investing of executive bonuses or any of the other reasons listed above could explain the phenomenon it could also be because the tendency was first found in 1942! As it has been around for so long, investors anticipate it and react to it, thereby keeping the phenomenon intact!

Whatever the reason, it is there and important to know about. So what are the possible trading opportunities around it? Let's take a look.

Santa Claus Rally Trading Strategies

There are a variety of ways traders can take advantage of the Santa Claus rally. However, because the Santa Claus rally is over seven days, it lends itself much better towards shorter-term strategies.

For the most part, the simplest method would be to buy on the first of the last five days of the year and then close out at the close of the second day of the New Year. The problem is where do you put a stop loss and how do you risk manage the position? While history shows the period averages a positive 1.5% gain, there could be some wild swings to the downside on some occasions.

Many traders may then decide to look at the seven-day period of the Santa rally on a lower timeframe and employ day-trading type strategies to try to identify bullish price action patterns, or technical trading indicators to support buying during a period where history shows there is a tendency to have more buyers than sellers.

The chart below shows the lower timeframe four-hour chart of the S&P 500 stock market index during the Santa Claus rally period in 2019.

Source: Admirals MetaTrader 5, SP500, H4 - Data range: from 13 Dec 2019 to 14 Jan 2020, accessed on 11 Dec 2023. Please note: Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future results.

The highlighted yellow box on the chart above shows an example of a popular candlestick trading pattern called an Inverted Hammer. It is a pattern that is usually found after a downtrend and one which traders would take as a signal for a trend reversal.

Traders could also add technical trading indicators to look for further buying clues. In the example above, at the time of the Inverted Hammer, the Stochastic Oscillator was below 20 which is considered oversold and where the market may push up.

In this instance, traders could simply have an entry one point above the high of the Inverted Hammer with a stop loss one point below the low. This would have resulted in a possible entry price of 3226.50 and a stop loss of 3211.15. If trading 10 lots, then this would result in a potential loss of -$153.50. If the trader targeted the next swing high point at 3251.54, this would have resulted in a profit of $250.40.

▶️ The Admirals Trading Calculator is a great tool to help with risk management.

What Happens Before and After the Santa Rally?

Some longer-term traders and investors may look at the period that leads up to the Santa Claus rally, as there is a seasonal tendency for stock markets to start rising from October. Below is a chart showing the percentage of months which closed higher than they opened over the last 20 years ending in 2023 for the S&P 500 Large Cap Index from the CBOE Options Index.

Source: StockCharts, 11 December 2023

This shows that there is a strong tendency for the stock market to rally from October to the end of the year. This could be due to many reasons such as traders being more active in the market to end the last quarter of the year well, more optimism around the holiday period creating more revenue for different companies, etc. Whatever the reasons, the pattern is evident.

In this instance, traders may take a longer-term approach and start to build positions in stock markets from October to the end of the year. This could involve looking at the daily timeframe charts and utilising more of a swing trading style. As the market tends to rally during the end of the year and into the Santa rally dates, both traders and investors may start to build positions in anticipation of higher prices. 

The S&P 500 index seasonal chart above also shows that the January period leans more towards the bearish side by the end of the month. This is important to know from a trade management perspective as you don't want to hold your positions over a weaker period of time. Traders may use trailing stop losses to help maximise gains and minimise losses on a potential move lower. 

How to Trade the Santa Rally in 4 Steps

Once you have a potential trading setup, you can place a trade in just four steps, as shown below:

  1. Open an account with Admirals to access the dashboard.
  2. Click on Trade on one of your live or demo accounts to open the web platform.
  3. Search for your stock in the search window at the top right to view the live price chart. 
  4. Click Create New Order from the bottom of the screen to open the trading ticket. 
Source: Admirals MetaTrader 5. SP500. Monthly. Date: Jan 2017 to Dec 2023, captured on 11 Dec 2023. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future results or future performance.

The World's Premier Multi Asset Platform

Why Trade the Santa Claus Rally with Admirals?

✅ Trade with a well-established company authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

✅ Begin trading on the popular online trading platform MetaTrader for PC, Mac, Web, Android and iOS operating systems, provided for free by Admirals.

✅ Upgrade and supercharge your trading platform completely free to the Supreme Edition for actionable trading ideas on thousands of different stocks and shares, while accessing advanced trading tools.

✅ Open an Invest.MT5 investing account to buy the best shares, stocks and ETFs from 15 of the largest stock exchanges in the world.

✅ Open a Trade.MT5 trading account to trade via CFDs, allowing you to trade on margin and the ability to go long and short a market to potentially profit from rising and falling markets.

Did you know that one of the best ways to get started is to test all the services and products provided by Admirals by opening a demo trading account?

This means you can buy and sell in a virtual trading environment until you are ready for a live account. Click on the banner below to open your free demo trading account today.

Risk Free Demo Account

Register for a Free Online Demo Account and Master Your Trading Strategy

FAQs on the Santa Rally


What is Santa Claus Rally?

The Santa Claus rally is a stock market theory which suggests that there is a tendency for stock markets to rise during the last week of December and the first two trading days of the new year. 

What causes a Santa Claus rally?

There are a variety of factors that could contribute to the Santa rally. This includes tax loss harvesting, year-end profit taking and sector rotational strategies.


About Admirals

Admirals is a multi-award winning, globally regulated Forex and CFD broker, offering trading on over 8,000 financial instruments via the world's most popular trading platforms: MetaTrader 4 and MetaTrader 5. Start trading today!

This material does not contain and should not be construed as containing investment advice, investment recommendations, an offer of or recommendation for any transactions in financial instruments. Please note that such trading analysis is not a reliable indicator for any current or future performance, as circumstances may change over time. Before making any investment decisions, you should seek advice from independent financial advisors to ensure you understand the risks.

Investing in UK Housebuilder Shares
As with many industries, housebuilders have had a challenging time over the last couple of years. However, many UK housebuilder shares offer market-beating dividend yields, possess strong balance sheets and could stand to benefit from falling interest rates in 2024.But does it make sense to invest i...
How to Buy Disney Shares
The Walt Disney Company is one of the most recognisable brands on the planet. Its enormous popularity, global reach and ability to constantly evolve has brought Disney considerable success in the stock market over the years.But what about the future? Is Disney a buy in 2024? In this article, we will...
How to Find Cheap Stocks UK - 4 Important Financial Ratios to Know
Many investors would have heard the phrase ‘buy low, sell high.’ However, identifying the best cheap stocks to buy now is far easier said than done. A low share price or cheap stock may be a good place to buy low or it may keep on going lower. Judging whether a stock is cheap or not can be a diffic...
View All