Before investors get too excited about the July surge in stocks, here’s something to keep in mind: August and September are historically the two worst months for the S&P 500 Index.

Despite a 12.6% advance from a low of 3,666.77 on June 16, the S&P 500 could be facing an ugly stretch just after it had its best month since November 2020. Portfolio managers are debating whether stocks can maintain their recent gains with the Federal Reserve still on track to raise interest rates and the economy sending worrying recession signals.

Wall Street lore says October is the most dangerous month for the stock market because of crashes in 1929, 1987 and 2008. But August and September are actually worse, with the S&P 500 averaging declines of 0.6% and 0.7%, respectively, over the past 25 years.

“Is the rally durable? It needs conformation,” said Yung-Yu Ma, chief investment strategist at BMO Wealth Management. “Right now, the macro environment could easily tilt the market either way.”

Beyond he historical trends, another factor facing stocks this year is US midterm elections. The stock market tends to struggle early in midterm years due to the potential for policy changes in Washington, but it then rallies at year-end once the results are in.

The third quarter of a midterm election year tends to be the most volatile of any in a four-year presidential cycle. And since 1944, it averages a 0.5% decline, the second biggest after the second quarter’s average 1.9% drop, according to investment research firm CFRA.

Of course, stocks could be poised for a further bounce after the S&P 500’s 9% rally last month. Since 1928, when the index climbs at least 5% in July, more gains typically follow, with August and September averaging a respective return of 2% and 0.7%, according to Bank of America Corp.

Still, investors are split as to where the stock market goes from here. Jonathan Krinsky, chief market technician at BTIG, believes that the stock market is experiencing a counter-trend rally and that it’s poised for another leg lower in August and September.

“Don’t get fooled again,” Krinsky told clients in a note. “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

That echoes sentiment from Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., which anticipate more pain ahead on the assumption stocks haven’t fully calculated recession risks. On the other side are strategists like those at JPMorgan Chase & Co., who see a brighter outlook based on expectations that a mild economic downturn has already been priced into stocks.

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