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Grinch alert

One of the dominant themes of the almanac is seasonality - and given how much of our lives are governed by the seasons, it is no surprise to find that stock markets are too. Adages such as "sell in May" or "sell Rosh Hashana, buy Yom Kippur" may sound like old wives' tales, but there's plenty of data to suggest that they work time and time again. The almanac provides plenty of detail of the hows and whys, as did our own Simon Thompson in his book, Trading Secrets. In fact, Simon's column this week explores another tried and tested strategy, the first-quarter housebuilders trade he came up with 12 years ago, and which has made a small fortune for anyone who has followed it over the years.

Obviously, the seasonal effect most people are interested in right now is the so-called Santa Claus rally. As Mr Eckett points out in the almanac, December is statistically the best month for shares, delivering an average increase of 2.3 per cent since 1984 and only falling five times in those 28 years - the next best month is April, with an average 1.8 per cent increase and a 71 per cent proportion of up years against December's 84 per cent.

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