How Long Do Bear Markets Last?

How Long Do Bear Markets Last?

Posted On May 11, 2022 3:05 am

By Ben Carlson 

As of the close on Monday the S&P 500 is now down almost 17% from all-time highs.

The technical definition of a bear market is down 20% but we’re close enough for me to call it.

It’s a bloodbath out there.

The Nasdaq 100 and Russell 2000 are both already there:

It’s been a couple of years since we’ve experienced a bear market so it’s probably a good time for a refresher:

  • Bear markets are normal.
  • They can be painful.
  • The reasons are always different but the emotions are the same.
  • No one knows how long they will last.
  • They do come to an end eventually.

The length of the current iteration probably depends on how long inflation stays elevated, how resolute the Fed is with tighter monetary policy and if these two factors combine to throw us into a recession.

Things could surely get worse before they get better or this could all end with one sentence from Jerome Powell if he decides to tap out. The bottom will look obvious in hindsight but, as always, predicting these things in real-time is not easy.

Historical comparisons cannot provide the blueprint for the present situation but they can help put things into perspective in terms of the length and duration of past bear markets.

Here’s a look at every bear market for the S&P 500 going back to 1950 that shows the drawdown, peak-to-trough number of days they lasted, and how long it took for the S&P to reclaim  previous levels:

Over 15 bear markets, the average downturn is a loss of 30%, lasting just under a year to reach the bottom and taking a little more than one-and-a-half years to break even.1

The last three bear markets2 have all been relatively short-lived. Eight out of the 15 bear markets broke even in under a year. The worst-case scenario is the 1973-1974, 2000-2002 and 2007-2009 crashes which all took more than four years to recover.

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Dividend Sensei

I'm an Army veteran and former energy dividend writer for The Motley Fool. I'm a proud co-founder of Wide Moat Research, Dividend Kings, and the Intelligent Dividend Investor. My work can be found on Seeking Alpha, Dividend Kings, iREIT, and the Intelligent Dividend Investor. My goal is to help all people learn how to harness the awesome power of dividend growth investing to achieve their financial dreams and enrich their lives. With 24 years of investing experience, I've learned what works and more importantly, what doesn't, when it comes to building long-term wealth and income streams and achieving long-term financial goals.

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