What Is the Super Bowl Indicator?
The Super Bowl Indicator is a nonscientific barometer of the stock market. The idea behind the indicator is that a Super Bowl win for an NFL American Football Conference (AFC) team predicts a stock market decline (a bear market) in the next year. On the other hand, a win for a team from the National Football Conference (NFC) foretells a rise in the market or a bull run in the upcoming year.
Leonard Koppett, a sportswriter for The New York Times, first introduced the Super Bowl Indicator in 1978. Up until that point, the Super Bowl Indicator had never been wrong.
- The premise of the Super Bowl indicator is the theory that a Super Bowl win for a team from the American Football Conference (AFC) of the National Football League (NFL) foretells a decline in the stock market (a bear market) in the upcoming year.
- Conversely, a win for a team from the NFL's National Football Conference (NFC) means the stock market will rise in the coming year (a bull market).
- As a means of predicting the stock market, the Super Bowl Indicator is completely irrelevant: There's no reason to believe that the winner of a football game dictates the performance of the stock market.
Market Indicators: InvestoTrivia
Understanding the Super Bowl Indicator
At one point in time, the Super Bowl Indicator boasted a more than 90% success rate in predicting the up-or-down outcome of the S&P 500 before the dotcom years (1998-2001). However, the old maxim applies: Correlation does not imply causation.
The indicator has one very glaring caveat: It counts the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team with an NFL-leading six Super Bowl wins in all, in the NFC, because that's where the team got its start back in 1933, as an original NFL franchise. It seemingly doesn't matter that Pittsburgh won all its Super Bowls as an AFC team. Skeptics note that the Steelers won 27% of the Super Bowls by the time it claimed its third for the 1978 season, the year when the index got its start. Some argue that Koppett included the caveat about original NFL teams from the AFC essentially counting as NFC teams within the indicator for this reason.
As of the end of 2022, the indicator has been correct 41 out of 56 times, as measured by the S&P 500 Index. This is a success rate of around 73%. In 2008, despite the New York Giants (NFC) winning the Super Bowl, which supposedly indicated a bull market, the stock market suffered one of the largest downturns since the Great Depression. However, down markets failed to materialize in both 2016 and 2017, when the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots, both original AFC teams, won Super Bowls. The indicator fell short yet again in 2022, when a victory by the LA Rams of the NFC should have led to market gains, but the S&P 500 ended the year nearly 20% lower.
The Super Bowl Indicator is an example of purely fun sports writing. There is no real connection between a football team in a particular league and the U.S. stock market; so, any relationship that can be drawn between the two is purely a coincidence. What began as an interesting column many decades ago continues to make a new headline at least once a year.
As a means of predicting the stock market, the Super Bowl Indicator is completely irrelevant: There's no reason to believe that the winner of a football game dictates the performance of the stock market. However, that hasn’t stopped people from talking and writing about it for the past four decades.
S&P 500 Performance Over Past Super Bowls
|Year||Winner||League||Conference||S&P 500 Price Return||Prediction|
|2022||Los Angeles Rams||NFL||NFC||-19.44%||Wrong|
|2021||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||NFL||NFC||14.51%||Right|
|2020||Kansas City Chiefs||AFL||AFC||15.76%||Wrong|
|2019||New England Patriots||AFL||AFC||30.43%||Wrong|
|2017||New England Patriots||AFL||AFC||21.83%||Wrong|
|2015||New England Patriots||AFL||AFC||−0.73%||Right|
|2014||Seattle Seahawks||Expansion team||NFC||13.69%||Right|
|2013||Baltimore Ravens||Expansion team||AFC||32.39%||Wrong|
|2012||New York Giants||NFL||NFC||16.00%||Right|
|2011||Green Bay Packers||NFL||NFC||−1.12%||Wrong|
|2010||New Orleans Saints||NFL||NFC||15.06%||Right|
|2008||New York Giants||NFL||NFC||−37.00%||Wrong|
What Does the Super Bowl Indicator Predict?
The Super Bowl Indicator suggests that the championship game of the National Football League (NFC) predicts the direction that the stock market will move that year. According to the theory, if a team from the National Football Conference (NFC) wins the Super Bowl, the markets will rise, but a victory by the representative of the American Football Conference (AFC) foretells a year of market declines. Although the indicator garners headlines every year around the time of the big game, it is not scientific, and there is no reason to believe that there is a relationship between the gridiron and the stock markets.
How Often Is the Super Bowl Indicator Correct?
As of the end of 2022, the Super Bowl Indicator has correctly predicted the directional movement of the S&P 500 41 out of 56 times, which come out to a percentage of 73%. It remains to be seen whether correlation holds true between the winner of Super Bowl LVII in February 2023 and the stock market's movement for the year.
Who Came Up With the Super Bowl Indicator?
New York Times sportswriter Leonard Koppett introduced the Super Bowl Indicator in 1978. At that time, the indicator had consistently been correct, although Koppett's analysis depended on classifying teams based on football's original leagues rather than the conference they represented at the time of their championship.
The Bottom Line
The Super Bowl Indicator suggests that the NFL's annual championship matchup provides a forecast for the current year's stock market performance. If the National Football Conference (NFC) team wins the Super Bowl, the markets are expected to post gains for the year, while a victory for the American Football Conference (AFC) forebodes market declines. Although the indicator has a success rate of over 70%, the apparent correlation between the results of the Super Bowl and the markets is a coincidence rather than a scientific fact.
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The Street. "The Super Bowl Indicator Works 94% of the Time When This is True."
CME Group. "What to Make of the Super Bowl Indicator."
Vintage Value Investing. "The Super Bowl Stock Market Indicator."
Snopes. "The Super Bowl Indicator."
Herald-Tribune. "Super Bowl Predicator Fumbles Stock Market Forecast for Third Year."