Bear Market vs. Bull Market

Bear Market vs Bull Market - Bear Market vs. Bull Market

Markets experiencing sustained and/or substantial growth are called bull markets.
Markets experiencing sustained and/or substantial declines are called bear markets.
Each presents its own set of opportunities and pitfalls

Whether you’re looking into cryptocurrency, stocks, real estate, or any other asset, you’ll often see markets described in one of two ways: as a bull market or a bear market. To put it simply, a bull market is a rising market, while a bear market is a declining one. Because markets often experience day-to-day (or even moment-to-moment) volatility, both terms are generally reserved for:

  • Longer periods of mostly upward or downward movement

  • Substantial upward or downward swings (20% is the widely accepted figure)

What is a bull market?

A bull market, or bull run, is defined as a period of time where the majority of investors are buying, demand outweighs supply, market confidence is at a high, and prices are rising. If, in a given market, you see prices quickly trending upwards, this could be a sign that the majority of investors are becoming optimistic or “bullish” about the price increasing further, and may mean that you’re looking at the start of a bull market.

Investors who believe that prices will increase over time are known as “bulls.”  As investor confidence rises, a positive feedback loop emerges, which tends to draw in further investment, causing prices to continue to rise.

Because the price of a given cryptocurrency is substantially influenced by public confidence in that asset, a strategy some investors use is to try to determine investors’ optimism in a given market (a measure known as “market sentiment”).

What marks the end of a bull market?

Even during a bull market there will be fluctuations, dips, and corrections along the way. It can be easy to misinterpret short-term downward movements as the end of a bull market. This is why it’s important to consider any potential signs for a trend reversal from a broader perspective, looking at price action over longer time frames. (Investors with a shorter time-frame often talk about “buying the dip.”)

History has shown that bull markets don’t last forever, and at some point, investor confidence will begin to decline — this could be triggered by anything from bad news like unfavorable legislation to unforeseen circumstances like the COVID-19 pandemic. A sharp downwards price movement can begin a bear market, where more and more investors believe prices will continue to fall, causing a downward spiral as they sell in order to prevent further losses.

How to trade in a bull market

The main idea behind trading bull markets is relatively simple. Prices are going up, so going long and buying dips is generally a reasonable strategy. This is why the buy and hold strategy and dollar-cost averaging are generally well-suited for long-term bull markets.
There’s a saying that goes like this: “The trend is your friend, until it’s not.” This just means that it makes sense to trade with the direction of the market trend. At the same time, no trend will last forever, and the same strategy may not perform well in other parts of a market cycle. The only certainty is that the markets can and will change. As we’ve seen with the COVID-19 outbreak, multi-year bull markets can be wiped out in a matter of weeks.
Naturally, most investors will be bullish in a bull market. This makes sense since prices are going up, so the overall sentiment should also be bullish. However, even during a bull market, some investors will be bearish. If their trading strategy accommodates for it, they may even be successful with short-term bearish trades, such as shorting.

As such, some traders will try to short the recent highs in a bull market. However, these are advanced strategies and are generally more suitable for professional traders. As a less experienced trader, it’s usually more sensible to trade according to the trend. Many investors get trapped trying to short bull markets. After all, stepping in front of a raging bull or a locomotive can be a dangerous undertaking.

What is a bear market?

Bear markets are defined as a period of time where supply is greater than demand, confidence is low, and prices are falling. Pessimistic investors who believe prices will continue to fall are, therefore, referred to as “bears.” Bear markets can be difficult to trade in — particularly for inexperienced traders.

It’s notoriously difficult to predict when the bear market might end and when the bottom price has been reached — as rebounding is usually a slow and unpredictable process that can be influenced by many external factors such as economic growth, investor psychology, and world news or events.

But they also can present opportunities. After all, if your investment strategy is longer-term, buying during a bear market can pay off when the cycle reverses itself. Investors with shorter-term strategies can also be on the lookout for temporary price spikes or corrections. And for more advanced investors, there are strategies like short selling, which is a way of betting that an asset will decline in price.  Another strategy many crypto investors employ is dollar-cost averaging, in which you’d invest a set amount of money (say $50) every week or month, whether the asset is rising or falling. This distributes your risk and allows you to invest through bull and bear markets alike.

How to trade in a bear market

One of the simplest strategies traders can use in a bear market is to stay in fiat currency (or stablecoins). If you’re not comfortable with prices declining, it may be better to simply wait until the market gets out of bear market territory. If there’s an expectation that a new bull market may come at some point in the future, you can take advantage of it when it does. At the same time, if you’re long-term HODLing with an investment time horizon of many years or decades, a bear market isn’t necessarily a direct signal to sell.

When it comes to trading and investing, it’s generally a better idea to trade with the direction of the market trend. This is why another lucrative strategy in bear markets could be to open short positions. This way, when asset prices are going down, traders can profit off the decline. These can be day trades, swing trades, position trades – the main intention is simply to trade in the direction of the trend. With that said, many contrarian traders will look for “counter-trend” trades, meaning trades that are against the direction of the major trend. Let’s see how that works.
In the case of a bear market, this would be entering a long position on a bounce. This move is sometimes called a “bear market rally” or a “dead cat bounce”. These counter-trend price moves can be notoriously volatile, as many traders may jump on the opportunity to long a short-term bounce. However, until the overall bear market is confirmed to be over, the assumption is that the downtrend will resume right after the bounce.
This is why successful traders will take profits (around the recent highs) and exit before the bear trend resumes. Otherwise, they could be stuck in their long position while the bear market continues. As such, it’s important to note that this is a highly risky strategy. Even the most advanced traders can incur significant losses when trying to catch a falling knife.

Where did these “bull” and “bear” terms come from, anyway?

Like a lot of financial terms, the origins aren’t clear. But most people believe they derive from the way each animal attacks: bulls thrust their horns upward, while bears swipe downwards with their claws. There is of, course, a long history of theory and evidence around the origin of the terms. If you’re curious, this Merriam-Webster explainer is a good place to start.

Binance 10 - Bear Market vs. Bull Market

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