There’s an old adage that stock performance in the month of January is predictive of performance for the rest of the year. If the market finishes January up, it is said, the year’s performance should be positive as well. And the opposite is also said to be true. This is distinct from, but perhaps related to, “The January Effect,” which suggests that stocks enjoy a tailwind in January, due to year end selling in December, followed by reinvesting in January. Professional investors are familiar with several similar adages: small cap stocks lead large in a recovery, “Sell in May and Go Away,” and positive stock performance during the third year of a presidential term.

Humans are wired to see patterns. Sometimes those patterns exist, and sometimes they don’t. Positive stock market performance during the month of January as a foreshadowing of a strong year is one of those patterns that may not actually exist. Last January, for example, the S&P 500 price return was -3.5%. The index finished the year +13.75%. We suspect that the unusually harsh winter tamped investor enthusiasm in January 2014. The winter storms certainly contributed to the weak first quarter GDP performance last year, so it’s reasonable that stocks followed suit. Whatever the cause, 2014 was a reminder that January is not a crystal ball for stocks.

Predictions are a funny business. As professional investors, we need to have informed opinions about economic, capital market, and individual company performance in the future. We try to stay humble on this front, recognizing that some of our perceptions indicate true patterns and others will end up being wrong. The real test of investor mettle is what you do when your views don’t pan out.

We like the return prospects for many stocks in 2015, and point to several important patterns we observe: interest rates and inflation are low; the U.S. dollar is strong; energy prices are falling; more people are working; and corporate financial statements are generally low on expensive debt, and flush with cash. But we also recognize that the stock market is itself a discounting mechanism of concurrent and future events: positive stock market performance suggests positive economic data in the coming 3-9 months, not the other way around. Hopefully 2015 will be as kind to investors as we think it will. But if it isn’t, we’re prepared to respond. In any event, we won’t lose much sleep over how well stocks perform during the month of January.