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A frightful economy? Top 5 Halloween indicators.

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Tina Fineberg/AP

(Read caption) Costumed spectators Victoria Ochoa (second from right) and Melissa Valencia watched New York's Village Halloween Parade on Oct. 31.

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You can learn a lot from Halloween: whether consumers are cheery, how sales are going at local stores, even whether to buy stocks or commodities. So here's our list of leading Halloween indicators – and what they might be signaling about the future.

5. The Halloween stock indicator. Since 1950, stocks have tended to perform better in the six months immediately following Halloween (up 7.9 percent) than they do in the six months preceding it (up 2.5 percent) – and not just in the United States. But this past year, the trend flip-flopped, with the S&P actually losing 9.9 percent in the "strong" period then gaining 18.7 percent in the just-ended "weak" one. Outlook: Murky.

4. Sugar trading. Oct. 31 is the midway point for a traditionally sweet trade. Through 2007, buying sugar prices during their seasonable bottom in late August or early September and holding on through November brought profits in 27 of the last 36 years, according to the 2009 Commodity Trader's Almanac. Unfortunately, the trade didn't work well in 2008 or 2009. Outlook: Topsy-turvy.

3. Candy sales. Halloween is the biggest holiday for the sweet stuff and this year sales were expected to grow 1.8 percent, according to the National Confectioners Association. That's up from just 0.3 percent last year, which was the worst since 2002, when the United States was coming out of a much milder recession and candy sales fell slightly. Outlook: Sweet, but candymakers seem to grow recession or not.

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