Well, stocks finally did it. On Wednesday, the market marked the longest bull run in history, at 3,453 days. The rally that began amid the wreckage of the financial crisis on March 9, 2009, set the record. Or did it?
The traditional way of defining a bear market is a fall of 20% or more. You start counting a bull market at stocks’ lowest point after that slide. The previous bull recordholder ran from October 1990 to March 2000.
Trouble is, the start date of the last bull market champ is under dispute. Some think its actual beginning date should be earlier, following the late-1987 crash. All in all, the 1987-1990 market slump was 19.9%.
Indeed, Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA, noted that there is no official body that has ordained that a 20% drop constitutes a bear market. That 20% is merely a convention. Nevertheless, most of the investing world has brushed aside the 0.1 percentage point shortfall. Stovall’s firm is among those that doesn’t.
If you agree with him, the bull market dates back to 1987. This means our current market has longer to go before it can claim the title—waiting until April 3, 2021, in fact, for a full span of 4,407 days.
Using any measure, this market rise has been bountiful, with the S&P 500 quadrupling since its low point in early 2009. The good thing, from an investor’s viewpoint, is that bull markets last longer than bear ones. By Bespoke Investment Group’s reckoning, since 1927, the average bull run has lasted 981 calendar days, and the average bear period just 296.
Even better, since World War II, the bull/bear market cycles became much longer. The average bull market was 1,651 days and gained 152.4%, Bespoke wrote in a recent report. And the average bear span was 362 days, declining 31.8%. The current bull stampede, Bespoke declared, “is more than double the length and strength of the average bull market.”
So take that, you statistical killjoys. Enjoy it while you can.