May's Best And Worst Performers... Usually

Generally speaking, the month of May isn't a great one for stocks. Between graduations, vacations and the froth built up from the usual bullishness seen over the course of the first four months of the year, stocks tend to take a break at this time of year. To quantify the tendency, since 1950, the S&P 500 has averaged a 19% gain for the month of May, logging progress in 41 of those years, but losing ground in the other 28.

This year isn't looking like it's going to be a wild exception to the norm, particularly after such a hot start to the year. The S&P 500 is up roughly 24% since the late-December low.

The usual tepidness isn't uniform, however. Some groups manage to hammer out a decent gain no matter what, while others are almost destined to disappoint.

With that as the backdrop, here's a look at the industries and groups most like to move the most this month, for better or for worse.



There's rarely a bad time to own beer-brewer stocks. These names tend to make forward progress at a slow and steady pace, even after the usual rough start to the year. The typical May leaves behind a modest 1.4% advance, but the group keeps walking at that pace until September.

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Biotech names tend to get the year started on a bullish foot, though that surge started to fade in late February. The weakness lasts through April too. Beginning in May though, things start to take a turn for the better. While the group only averages about a 1.4% advance for the month ahead, traders won't want to miss the beginning of what's usually a good June and an even better July. All told, biotechnology stocks gain an average of 7.7% for the three-month span.

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Healthcare Equipment & Services

The 1.6% gain healthcare equipment and service names log in their typical May isn't remarkably different than the advances they reap in other months. But, they're one of the few groupings that perform well while other areas don't. May is also only a small segment of a bigger rally that lasts through mid-July. April's tumble from these stocks has set the stage for an unfettered advance.

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