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Three Top Plays for The January Effect

We’re rapidly approaching the start of 2021 and the January Effect, when market players scoop up the prior year’s biggest losers in hopes of high percentage returns. The new crop of hopefuls is smaller than in prior years because many stocks are trading close to 52-week or all-time highs, restricting the available equity pool. It’s also important to do your homework, if interested in this classic trade, because many losers are destined for even lower prices.

U.S. laws require that investors pay capital gains tax when they sell shares for a profit, except in retirement accounts, which gets taxed at the time of distribution. This requirement induces many folks to keep their strongest stocks through December to lower annual tax bills. In turn, these winners often get sold aggressively in January, freeing up capital that can be risked on bottom fishing, value hunting, and all the other reasons that market players buy cheap stocks.

Let’s look at three prime candidates for the January Effect.


Intel Corp. (INTC) has done just about everything wrong in 2020. Delayed product rollouts and weak management have allowed smaller rivals to pick up critical market share, making the tech icon one of the worst mega-cap performers, with a 16% year-to-date loss compared to the Nasdaq-100’s 40%+ return. Even so, sidelined investors are hoping for a management shake-up and could pick up shares aggressively in 2021.

Tyson Foods

Tyson Foods Inc. (TSN) and many meatpackers ignored the growing pandemic in the first quarter and failed to take precautions to keep their workers safe. The ensuring scandal cost lives, with widespread infections at plants all across the Midwest and South. Supply chains then broke down, raising prices while lowering revenues. The industry is now in recovery mode but the stock is still down more than 24% for the year, making it an ideal January Effect candidate.

Boston Scientific

Boston Scientific Corp. (BSX) has posted weak or negative growth in the last three quarters. In addition, recalls and lawsuits have plagued the company for many years, raising questions about research methodology and quality control. The stock posted an all-time high in December 2019 and fell to a three-year low in March. The subsequent recovery failed in September, yielding a steady downtick that’s now brought the annual loss to a painful 26%.

For a look at all of today’s economic events, check out our economic calendar.

Disclosure: the author held no positions in aforementioned securities at the time of publication.