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Bulls hope to fly with the Eagles
The Super Bowl indicator is on a huge losing streak. But just in case, bulls should pull for Philly.
February 4, 2005: 9:20 AM EST
By Chris Isidore, CNN/Money senior writer
The Super Bowl stock market indicator hasn't had many wins in the last 7 years.
The Super Bowl stock market indicator hasn't had many wins in the last 7 years.
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NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Maybe the final gun should be sounded on the Super Bowl stock market indicator.

The indicator was supposed to be a predictor of how the stock market would do based on the history of the winning team.

A win by a team that played in the old National Football League would give a lift to stocks. A championship by a team that played in the American Football League before the merger of the two circuits would let the bears run.

But the indicator, which had about a 90 percent success rate predicting the market in its first 31 years of existence, has had only one clean win in the past seven big games.

In 2002, the win by the AFL-born New England Patriots accurately foretold the continuation of the bear market into a third year. But the Pats won again in 2004 and a fall rally helped push stocks into positive territory, sacking the indicator for another loss.

Of course even when the indicator seemed to be working, it was far safer to watch a football game in Philadelphia or New England wearing the opposing team's colors than it was to base investment decisions on it.

Even so, Bob Stovall, who helped populize the Super Bowl indicator in the 1970s when he served as investment policy director at Morgan Stanley predecessor Dean Witter Reynolds, isn't ready to give up on it.

"It's been correct just under 80 percent of the time -- I don't know of any other gaggle of gurus that has a record that good," he said. "Of course, I certainly wouldn't put real money into the market based on the game. But it's nice to know if it's on your side."

Stovall, who is now managing director and strategist at Wood Asset Management in Sarasota, Fla., is a University of Pennsylvannia grad who planned to cheer for the Eagles -- an old NFL team -- even without the indicator making that the bullish call.

A better way

Other traders and market observers are still fans of the indicator -- though they aren't always faithful.

"I've always enjoyed it as a football fan," said Jeff Hirsch of the Stock Trader Almanac. "But as a market analyst, I always turn to our January barometer."

That indicator, which says that as January goes, so goes the markets for the full year, has been right 80 percent of the time since 1938, said Hirsch.

The January effect indicator and the early betting line out of Vegas on this year's Super Bowl both suggest this will be a tough year for stocks.

The Standard & Poor's 500 is off almost 3 percent so far this month going into its last trading day of January. Meanwhile, the Pats are favored by almost a touchdown over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Any hope for the indicator?

Given the recent track record of the Super Bowl indicator, is there any reason to pay attention to it any more? Perhaps.

The indicator hasn't had many clean readings the past few years, due to expansion teams and nomads making it to the big game.

In four of the past five years, including last year, at least one of the teams in the Super Bowl was formed after the merger, or changed its name when it moved.

The only year that you had two teams meet whose names would be recognized at the time of the merger was in 2002, when the Patriots beat the Rams, and the indicator correctly predicted another loss for the markets.

This year we're back to a clean test. Patriots vs. the Eagles, AFL versus NFL. If it gets back on track, maybe the lesson is to ignore the years which don't fit this relatively clean test.

But whether or not the winner correctly calls the direction of the market, you can be sure it'll be talked about again next year. What else is there to do on Wall Street in the cold, dark days of February following the Super Bowl.  Top of page

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