Bear markets signal recession, but not always


(NewsNation) — The stock market’s slump this year briefly pulled the S&P 500 into what’s known as a bear market.

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 a sustained period of time.

The fear factor on Wall Street is elevated because bear markets often coincide with recessions. But not always.

Right now, our economy still has a lot of positives, consumers are still spending money and unemployment is close to pre-pandemic levels.

But the fear is that inflation wasn’t slowed soon enough and the Federal Reserve will need to raise rates so rapidly it could accidentally trigger a recession.

So how often do bear markets signal a recession?

The most recent bear market for the S&P 500 ran from February 19, 2020 through March 23, 2020.

The NASDAQ has been in bear market territory since March, we’re almost 30% off a November 2021 high. But the S&P 500 is considered a litmus for the health of the stock market.

There have been a couple of times when we’ve seen bear markets that didn’t accompany recessions.

In the 1940s, twice in the1960s, then again in the 1980s.

The numbers then are about the numbers we’re looking at right now — drops of 20% to 30%.

But 70% of bear markets do typically come with a recession, and usually with a much larger loss.

In the Great Depression, we were up about 86%. In the 70s, we’re looking at about 50%. Same with the dotcom collapse, in 2000 – 2002. During the Great Recession in 2007-2009, we were at about 56%.

On average, bear markets have taken 13 months to go from peak to trough and 27 months to get back to breakeven since World War II.

The S&P 500 index has fallen an average of 33% during bear markets in that time. The biggest decline since 1945 occurred in the 2007-2009 bear market when the S&P 500 fell 57%.

So a bear market does not always signal a recession, but it certainly can. The levels that we are at right now are optimistic.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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