Declines in stocks signal a bear market; here is what it means

NEW YORK — Wall Street opens the week with more losses, and the S&P 500 fell to a level that market watchers consider a bear market.

Rising interest rates, high inflation, war in Ukraine and a slowing Chinese economy have caused investors to reconsider what they are willing to pay for a wide range of stocks, from technology companies to high-flying to traditional automakers. Big swings have become commonplace and Monday seems to be no exception.

The last bear market happened just two years ago, but it would still be a first for investors who started trading on their phones during the pandemic. Thanks in large part to the extraordinary actions of the Federal Reserve, stocks have seemed for years to be heading largely in one direction: up. The rallying cry of “buy the dip” after every market dip has faded after stinging losses and severe drops in risky assets like cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin fell another 12% and fell below $24,000 early Monday. Bitcoin price approached $68,000 at the end of last year.

Here are some frequently asked questions about bear markets



A bear market is a term used by Wall Street when an index like the S&P 500, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, or even an individual stock, has fallen 20% or more from a recent high for an extended period.

Why use a bear to represent a market crash? Bears are hibernating, so bears represent a pullback market, said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA. By contrast, Wall Street’s nickname for a booming stock market is a bull market, as the bulls charge, Stovall said.

Them&P 500, Wall Street’s main health barometer, slid more than 2.6% in early trading Monday to 3,800. That’s nearly 21% below the high set on Jan. 3. The Nasdaq is already in a bear market, down 31.5% from its high of 16,057.44 on November 19. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is more than 16% lower than its most recent peak.

The most recent bear market for the S&P 500 ran from February 19, 2020 to March 23, 2020. The index fell 34% during this one-month period. This is the shortest bear market ever.



The number one enemy of the market is interest rates, which are rising rapidly due to high inflation hitting the economy. Low rates are acting like steroids for stocks and other investments, and Wall Street is pulling back.

The Federal Reserve has aggressively moved away from supporting financial markets and the economy with record rates and is focusing on fighting inflation. The central bank has already raised its main short-term interest rate from its all-time high near zero, which had encouraged investors to shift their money to riskier assets like stocks or cryptocurrencies to get better returns. yields.

Last month, the Fed signaled additional rate increases of double the usual amount that are likely in the coming months. Consumer prices are at their highest level in four decades and rose 8.6% in May from a year ago.

Deliberate measures will slow the economy by making borrowing more expensive. The risk is that the Fed could cause a recession if it raises rates too high or too quickly.

Russia’s war in Ukraine has also put upward pressure on inflation by driving up commodity prices. And worries about China’s economy, the world’s second-largest, added to the gloom.



While the Fed can do the tricky job of reining in inflation without triggering a slowdown, rising interest rates continue to put downward pressure on equities.

If customers pay more to borrow money, they can’t buy as much stuff, so less revenue goes to a company’s bottom line. Stocks tend to follow earnings over time. Higher rates also make investors less willing to pay high prices for stocks, which are riskier than bonds, as bonds suddenly pay more interest thanks to the Fed.

Critics said the global stock market entered the year looking expensive relative to history. Big tech stocks and other pandemic winners were seen as the most expensive, and those stocks took the most punishment as rates rose. But the pain is spreading widely, with retailers reporting a shift in consumer behavior.

Stocks have fallen nearly 35% on average when a bear market coincides with a recession, compared with a decline of nearly 24% when the economy avoids a recession, according to Ryan Detrick, chief market strategist at LPL Financial.



If you need money now or want to lock in losses, yes. Otherwise, many advisers suggest riding through the ups and downs while remembering that swings are the price of entry for the stronger returns stocks have provided over the long term.

While dumping stocks would stop the bleeding, it would also prevent any potential gain. Many of Wall Street’s best days have occurred either during a bear market or right after a market has ended. This includes two separate days in the middle of the 2007-2009 bear market when the S&P 500 jumped around 11%, as well as jumps over 9% during and shortly after the roughly month-long bear market in 2020.

Advisors suggest putting money into stocks only if it won’t be needed for several years. Them&P 500 has come back from each of its previous bear markets to finally reach another all-time high.

The decade of stock market declines following the bursting of the dotcom bubble in 2000 were notoriously brutal, but stocks were often able to return to their highs within a few years.



On average, bear markets have taken 13 months to peak to trough and 27 months to break even since World War II. ThemThe &P 500 Index fell an average of 33% during bear markets over this period. The biggest decline since 1945 occurred in the bear market of 2007-2009 when the S&P 500 fell 57%.

History shows that the faster an index enters a bear market, the lower it tends to be. Historically, stocks have taken 251 days (8.3 months) to fall into a bear market. When the&P 500 fell 20% at a faster pace, the index recorded an average loss of 28%.

The longest bear market lasted 61 months and ended in March 1942 and reduced the index by 60%.



Typically, investors are looking for a 20% gain from a low point as well as sustained gains over at least a six month period. It took less than three weeks for stocks to rise 20% from their March 2020 low.


Veiga reported from Los Angeles. —— Follow AP’s business coverage at

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