How to Find Bear Market Territory

Econlife Team
3 min readJun 14, 2022


Since 1928, based on the S&P 500, there have been 26 stock market declines that we call bear markets. But they were especially frequent during the 1930s:

The bad news is that recessions tend to accompany bear markets. However, on the plus side, most are followed by the market increases that we call bull markets.

Bear Markets and Recessions

Yes, we know that we associate the Great Depression with the 1930s. But I wanted to see the actual dates of the contraction from the NBER (The National Bureau of Economic Research dates our business cycles.). Telling us that a recession begins with the peak of the business cycle, and ends with its trough, they document two recessions (1929–1933; 1937–1938) during the 1930s:

Leaping to the early 1980s, the bear market dates were 11/28/1980 to 8/12/82. Lasting 622 days, the decline was 27.11 percent. At the same time we had a double dip recession that we called stagflation because it was accompanied by double-digit inflation:

Our Bottom Line: Recent Bear Markets

Defined as a 20 percent market decline from a high, bear markets are characterized by pessimism, fear, and contagious selling. During bear markets, investors shift from risk taking to risk resistance. Called secular bear markets, some market slumps (with occasional rallies) can last as long as 10 to 20 years.

Interrupted by bear declines, the S&P’s trajectory has been up:

Moving from what has been called a correction into bear territory We did have an unusually brief Covid bear market during February and March, 2020. The 35.62 percent decline unfolded during 33 days. Since then, after the S&P 500 peaked at 4796.56 on January 3, 2022, the market declined by 10 to 20 percent. However, with a close that took us to a 21.8 percent dip from January, yesterday we entered bear territory.

Now, we can always anticipate the next record high. Looking back to bear markets since WW II, the days from the market trough to a new record high ranged from 2,114 to 83.

My sources and more: For bear market basics, this Seeking Alpha article and the NY Times had the facts. Meanwhile, for business cycles, the best place to go is NBER.

Originally published at on June 14, 2022.



Econlife Team

Located at the intersection of current events, history, and economics, econlife® slices away all of the layers that make economics boring and complex.