August Is No Month to Relax

Traders work at the New York Stock Exchange on Aug. 5.


Guo Peiran/Zuma Press

August is supposed to be a sleepy time in the market when it’s safe for market professionals to head to the beach.

Not with President Donald Trump kicking off the month by announcing a new set of tariffs against China, China pushing back and Britain possibly careening toward a no-deal Brexit. So far in August, the S&P 500 has moved an average of 1.3% each day, putting it on pace to be the most volatile month this year.

This August hardly counts as an outlier. August 2015 was awful for stocks, too, with worries about China’s economy setting off a selloff that included a 1,089-point dive in the Dow Jones Industrial Average one Monday morning. August 2011 featured a Standard & Poor’s downgrade of U.S. Treasury debt. The S&P 500 fell 14.6% in August 1998 as the Russian debt crisis took hold. Over the past 25 years, only October 2008 was worse.

For Wall Streeters whose vacations have been ruined, yet again, by the market’s swings, here is an idea: Take your time off in June. It is the least volatile month, and you can still get a deal in the Hamptons.

Write to Justin Lahart at

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