Federal Open Market Committee Meeting Effect in Stocks

One market wisdom says - „Don’t fight the FED“, and academic research agrees with it. Academic studies show that the S&P 500 index average daily returns during Federal Open Market Committee meetings since 1980 (since FED started to be less secretive and more open about its plans and actions) are outstanding - more than 5 times greater than returns during other average days on market. It means, that more than 16% of average yearly returns for the equity index is realized during very few days. Therefore it handsomely pays to be long during these few days. A simple market timing strategy which exploits this anomaly could be created. As it is only few days in year, this strategy could be easily leveraged to obtain higherr returns.

Fundamental reason

FOMC meetings are mostly positive for stock market. The FED's purpose is to address banking panics, maintain the stability of the financial system, contain systemic risk in financial markets and strengthen economy growth. Therefore it is highly unlikely that FOMC meetings conclusions would be highly negative for stocks. This is the main cause for a positive drift.

Markets traded
equities
Confidence in anomaly's validity
Strong
Notes to Confidence in anomaly's validity
Period of rebalancing
Daily
Notes to Period of rebalancing
Number of traded instruments
1
Notes to Number of traded instruments
Complexity evaluation
Simple strategy
Notes to Complexity evaluation
Financial instruments
futures, CFDs, ETFs, funds
Backtest period from source paper
1980-2000
Indicative performance
6.19%
Notes to Indicative performance
per annum, return calculated for investor which is long stocks (average daily return 0.2734% - table 1) during FOMC meeting and invested in cash for remaining days (4% return on cash is expected)
Estimated volatility
not stated
Notes to Estimated volatility
Maximum drawdown
not stated
Notes to Maximum drawdown
Sharpe Ratio
not stated

Keywords:

market timing, seasonality

Simple trading strategy

Investor is invested in stocks during FOMC meetings (going long S&P 500 ETF, fund, future or CFD on close one day before meeting and closing position on close after meeting). Otherwise he is invested in cash during remaining days. The strategy has very low exposure to the stock market (8 days during average year) therefore it can be very easily leveraged to gain very significant returns.

Source Paper

Tori: Federal Open Market Comitee meetings and stock market performance
http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.399.721&rep=rep1&type=pdf
Abstract:
This paper examines an interesting calendar effect - a relationship between contemporaneous stocks market returns and Federal Open Market Comitee (FOMC) meeting dates. Examining S&P 500 stock market returns between 1960 and 2000, the study finds that there is a positive and significant calendar effect associated with FOMC meeting dates. The data reveal that while FOMC meeting dates only accounted for 4.42% of the trading days, FOMC meeting date returns accounted for over 13% of the cumulative returns over the time period. Using a dummy variable for FOMC meeting dates, regression results find that the FOMC meeting dates have a significantly positive effect on overall market returns.

Other Papers

Lucca, Moench: The Pre-FOMC Announcement Drift
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1923197
Abstract:
Since the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) began announcing its policy decisions in 1994, U.S. stock returns have on average been more than thirty times larger on announcement days than on other days. Surprisingly, these abnormal returns are accrued before the policy announcement. The excess returns earned during the twenty-four hours prior to scheduled FOMC announcements account for more than 80 percent of the equity premium over the past seventeen years. Similar results are found for major global equity indexes, but not for other asset classes or other economic news announcements. We explore a few risk-based explanations of these findings, none of which can account for the return anomaly.

Nilsson: The Pre-FOMC Drift Explored
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2640477
Abstract:
The pre-FOMC drift was first published in 2011 and is a strong driver of equity market performance over the last 30 years. The effect is able to explain approximately half of all the equity market returns over the measured period. We verify the results of prior studies. Furthermore, the report dives into conditional factors; equity market trend and monetary policy action to see if there is any difference in terms of macro variables. We find that FOMC is rather stable throughout time, macro conditions and has not been dependent on a particular Fed Chair. It seems as if the markets are expecting that the FOCM will infuse optimism into equity markets as the majority of the gains occurs before the actual announcement. The effect can be due to behavioral issues and herding among market participants but can also be due to information leakage. The effect remains unexplained.