When a bull attacks, it thrusts its horns upward. When a bear attacks, it swipes its paws downward. Bull vs. bear markets are common terms in the investor world to describe the nature of financial markets and can help inform investors about market sentiment.
A bull market is a sustained period where prices for securities are on the rise, often driven by optimism, investor confidence, and high expectations. Typically, this occurs alongside sound economic conditions, such as low unemployment rates and strong gross domestic product (GDP). When a bull market occurs, demand for securities will exceed supply, thus driving up prices. Essentially, investors are eager to buy securities, while few are willing to sell. A bull market is favorable because investors’ activities in the markets increase, leading to an increase in companies’ profitability, further pushing up prices.
On the flip side, a bear market is a period of contraction, characterized by falling prices. It generally occurs amid investor pessimism and shaken confidence and is often accompanied with economic downturn, such as recession. Bear markets are especially subject to investor psychology and can also be characterized as a time when investors are more risk-averse and avoid high speculation in lieu of sound bets for their securities. Unlike bull markets, supply exceeds demand within bear markets, thus causing drops in price. Many investors take their money out of financial markets, waiting for a positive move.
While there are no standard definitions for bull and bear markets, these terms are helpful in understanding market sentiment and making informed investment decisions. For instance, in a bull market, it is recommended to take advantage of rising prices by buying securities as early in the trend as possible and selling them when the price of the securities has reached its peak. This is often referred to as the concept of “Buy Low, Sell High.” Meanwhile, in a bear market, it is advised to make safer investments and turn to defensive stocks i.e. stocks that are minimally affected by market trends.