Good Friday is a strange stock market holiday and one that still catches me by surprise even after all these years.
With “Jack” Mormons as maternal grandparents and secular humanists on my father’s side, my parents provided the final generational filter that removed all religion from my upbringing, leaving me utterly oblivious to the signposts along the road to Easter.
You’d think that when I see smudges on my wife and daughter’s forehead and meat is suddenly verboten on Fridays I’d get a clue that a three-day trading break is on the horizon, but it never seems to register.
And even as I prepare my charts on Palm Sunday or trade my way through Fig Monday, Holy Tuesday, Spy Wednesday, and Maundy Thursday, with every Twitter reminder I ask myself once again, “why is the stock market closed on Good Friday?”
Unfortunately, like most Wall Street lore, the answer is not clear.
Rumors love an information vacuum, which has given rise to one centering around the idea of it being bad form to trade on the day everyone’s favorite Lord and Savior died.
Of course, those whose livelihood revolves around the pursuit of the root of all evil are not the most likely candidates for religious sensitivity, but when bad form translates into bad returns, well, then it’s another thing altogether.
Since 1864, the New York Stock Exchange has only been open three times on Good Friday – nobody seems to know why – all corresponding with big down days, the last of which started the Crash of 1907, prompting the NYSE Board of Governors never again to tempt fate, making the Friday before Easter a permanent holiday.
Except none of this is true.
For the real scoop, I defer to perhaps the greatest living stock market sage, Art Cashin, who addressed this issue in his 2017 holiday newsletter.
In the over five decades that I've been in Wall Street, each Easter season sees the re-blooming of an old — and erroneous — myth.
That myth contends that the NYSE opened on a Good Friday and the terrible Black Friday crash occurred. Thus, chastened and shaken, the Governors vowed never to open on a Good Friday again. It never happened.
Thanks to the nice folks in the NYSE archives we were able to establish a few facts. Records clearly show the NYSE closed on Good Friday as far back as 1864. Before 1864 records on the subject are a bit harder to find but there is high likelihood that the Exchange closed on Good Friday all the way back to 1793. (It was founded on May 17th, 1792 so Good Friday would have already passed that year.)
There was a famous and terrible Black Friday crash on Wall Street but it was primarily in the gold market. It came about when the 'corner' on gold that Jay Gould and Jim Fisk had constructed (with some help from President Grant's brother-in-law), collapsed. That occurred on September 24th, 1869, a little late in the year for Good Friday. You will also note from the search of the records that the NYSE was closing on Good Friday at least five years earlier and probably, much, much longer.
Lastly, for some unexplained reason, the NYSE stayed open on three Good Fridays. On April 8, 1898, the Dow closed down a half-point. That's hardly a crash. On the other two, April 13th, 1906 (a Friday the 13th) and March 29th, 1907, the Dow actually rose.
I hope that puts the myth to bed.
A more likely reason for the holiday is that in its early years the NYSE had a long history of Irish-Catholic Chairman and CEO’s who were particularly faithful and expected the floor brokers – most of whom, like Cashin, were Catholic as well – to attend church on Good Friday, dropping trade volume to almost nil.
So taking the day off has more to do with religion than money.
But as we enter into Easter weekend, it’s interesting to speculate as to how Jesus would view this pseudo-holiday tacitly taken in his name.
I mean, would he really want the market to close? It probably depends on how active he was.
If there was ever a poster boy for passive dollar-cost averaging it’s Jesus, but given the recent surge in popularity of day trading if he were around today even the Lamb of God would probably want to get in on the action.
Sure, he’d resist at first, rightfully labeling the strategies of today’s traders as speculative and irresponsible, but once the Apostles start rolling up in tricked out ox carts, bragging about 5-star vacations to the Dead Sea, and popping off about all the money they’re making, FOMO would definitely kick in.
“You’re going to do WHAT?”
“Day trade. Everyone’s doing it, Mary. It’s super easy and I’m guaranteed to make money.”
“Who told you that?”
“Judas. He’s been trading for months now and he’s up big time.”
“But what about your carpentry business?”
“Don’t worry, I’ve got it all figured out. The market opens here in Nazareth at 4:30pm. I can work during the day and trade at night.”
So what would Jesus trade?
Not likely. When the average life span where you live is 35 years old you don’t waste your time trading something you might have to hold until expiration.
No way. Everyone knows Satan runs the forex market.
Possibly, but due to his unique inside information network, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission would probably bar him, worried about situations like this.
“Hey pop, it’s Jay. How ya doing?”
“Look, dad, I was just wondering if you had any floods, or locust plagues, or really any ‘Acts of You’ on the schedule?”
“What? No, no, I’m not short wheat futures again. It’s just been a while and I was curious.”
Not if he wants to maintain marital bliss.
“Yo, J-bone, have you seen the BTC chart? It’s going to $100K. You getting in on this?”
“Oh man, I’d love to but Mary agreed to let me trade only under one condition – no crypto.”
That leaves stocks.
But after some initial success, JC would likely discover what all newbie traders learn eventually; his newfound hobby isn’t as easy as he thought – which could cause some unintended consequences for others.
“Hey Saul, how’s it going?”
“Not so good Paul. The doctor says I’m probably going to lose my arm.”
“The leprosy thing?”
“But I thought you were going to get that taken care of?”
“Yeah, so did I. Mister “King of Kings” was all set to do his stuff last week, but he never showed.”
“That’s so funny. I heard a similar story from Jacob the Blind just yesterday. He had an appointment with Joseph’s boy, but the kid just blew it off.”
“I heard that too. Apparently, he took a big hit in the market last month, and now he’s glued to his screens trying to make it back.”
And though being one-third of the Holy Trinity looks great on a resume it wouldn’t make him immune to the frustrations all traders experience.
“Thank you all for being here tonight at the Northern Haifa trader’s meet-up. Who would like to start? Yes, go ahead, please stand up Jesus.”
“Hi, you probably all know me as the Son of God, but I’ve really been struggling in the market lately.”
“I mean, I can turn water into wine, but I can’t catch the frigging turn in Tesla. That would really be a miracle.”
The question of course is, if he couldn’t get a handle on his trading would he cheat in order to achieve profitability?
In spite of the CFTC‘s concerns, I don’t think he would. It’s not in his nature.
Jesus has shown himself to be a straight arrow.
He didn’t lie after he chopped down that cherry tree, so why would he start acting dishonestly now?
However, I wouldn’t hold it against him if after getting caught short one too many times on a gap up, he’d have a “do-over” of the opening bell.
Not to get long, but at least flat.
I’d do it if I could.
Unfortunately, statistically speaking, Jesus’ trading career would end in disaster, but before it did he’d probably try a ‘Hail Mary,’ partnering with Dapper Labs to launch a group of non-fungible tokens based upon his miracles.
At first, it would seem a stroke of genius as NFTs like “The Water Walk,” “Lazarus Gets A Second Chance,” “Fish and Bread For 5000,” and “Cubs Win the Series” soar in value.
Having held back a number of key cards for his own portfolio, the Light of the World would think he finally figured out how markets work – until the latest generation of Crypto Punks were released and all his tokens crashed.
This leaves only one stock market-related endeavor left – starting a newsletter.
And assuming I’m not struck down by a lightning bolt from on high, I’ll see you back here in the Lund Loop newsletter next Saturday.
Happy Easter to you and yours.
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P.S. It should go without saying - but I’ll say it anyway - all opinions expressed in The Lund Loop are my own personal opinions and don’t reflect the views of my employer, any associated entities, or other organizations I’m associated with.
Nothing written, expressed, or implied here should be looked at as investment advice or an admonition to buy, sell, or trade any security or financial instrument. As always, do your own diligence.