Sell in May? Yes they did

June 6, 2012

Just how miserable a month May was for global equity markets is summed up by index provider S&P which notes that every one of the 46 markets included in its world index (BMI)  fell last month, and of these 35 posted double-digit declines. Overall, the index slumped more than 9 percent.

With Greece’s anti-austerity May 6 election result responsible for much of the red ink, it was perhaps fitting that Athens was May’s worst performer, losing almost 30 percent (it’s down 65 percent so far this year).  With euro zone growth steadily deteriorating, even German stocks fell almost 15 percent in May while Portugal, Spain and Italy were the worst performing developed markets  (along with Finland).

The best of the bunch (at least in the developed world) was the United States which fell only 6.5 percent in May and is clinging to 2012 gains of around 5 percent. S&P analyst Howard Silverblatt writes:

The political and economic uncertainty resulted in another flight to safety – being to the U.S., where equity markets lost 6.47%, but were the best performing developed market.

Emerging markets fared poorly again in May, with losses of 11.4 percent. Hungary, with its own debt problems and tiffs with the IMF, lost 23 percent while Russia was hit hard by oil’s price falls in May, shedding 22 percent. Markets are likely to be on tenterhooks for the next couple of weeks as they wait for the second round of Greek elections on June 17:

 While no one is writing off 2012, until the European situation clears up, it remains difficult for investors to commit.  By the end of June, some of that uncertainty should be demystified.

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