Bull About This Year’s Market

March 14, 2003
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GRAND RAPIDS — If the Dow Jones rises this year and increases the value of your portfolio, don’t even think of thanking Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan, President George Bush or your broker.

If you get filthy rich from your stock bets this year, you should send Oakland Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon a bouquet instead.

Gannon, the National Football League’s regular season MVP, threw five interceptions in Super Bowl XXXVII, three of which were returned by Tampa Bay for touchdowns to help the Buccaneers romp over Gannon’s Raiders 48-21 on Jan. 26.

So exactly what does Gannon’s inept play have to do with the tally on Wall Street?

It’s quite simple, really. When an old American Football League team, such as the Raiders, wins the Super Bowl, the stock market almost always performs poorly.

And the vice-versa is true: When an old AFL team, like the Raiders, loses the big game, the market almost always goes up.

Hey, it happened last year.

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 17 percent of its value in 2002, falling from 10,021 on Jan. 1 to 8,341 on Dec. 31. And guess who won Super Bowl XXXVI last year? The New England Patriots did. That’s who. The same Pats that joined the AFL in 1961, the year after the Raiders did.

And last year wasn’t a fluke.

In fact, the Super Bowl has correctly predicted the stock market’s performance 25 of 29 times, starting in 1967.

That figure means that the nation’s biggest game has an 86 percent success rate of forecasting which direction the Dow will go when an old AFL franchise plays in the game, even though none of those teams are nicknamed the Bears or Bulls.

There were 10 teams in the old AFL before the league merged with the NFL in 1970, and those 10 franchises have played in 29 of the previous 36 Super Bowls — not counting this year’s game.

Of those 29 games, AFL teams have won 10 and lost 19.

In the ten years the AFL teams won, the Dow dropped seven times for a pretty decent 70 percent prediction success rate. Of the 19 Super Bowls AFL teams lost, the Dow rose in 17 of those years for an even better 89 percent success rate. (See related story.)

This year, of course, the old AFL team lost, so the Dow should climb and you should be celebrating by using your expected earnings to book a vacation trip to Super Bowl XXXVIII.

But if you still doubt that Gannon’s right arm doesn’t potentially have more influence on your personal finances this year than Greenspan, Bush or your broker, then maybe you should ask them if they’ve been right 86 percent of the time.

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