Bear Market: Stages and Associated Factors

Bear Market: Stages and Associated Factors

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Jaya Sharma
Assistant Manager - Content
Updated on Apr 15, 2024 03:29 IST

One of the two primary phases include bear and bull in stock market. Bear markets is caused by factors including inflation, economic recession, geopolitical events and combination of these factors. During this phase, investors become pessimistic about the perspective of market resulting in hurried selling and decreasing stock prices.


In a stock market, this article, we will be discussing bear market meaning, various stages of bear market and factors that lead to this phase in any financial market.

Table of Contents

What is a Bear Market?

According to bear market definition, it is a phase in the financial market where prices of securities start declining. In this phase, the perspective of investors becomes pessimistic about future prospects of the economy or a specific sector. Stock experience both bullish and bearish trends. Bearish trend is the opposite of bullish trend, where investors’ sentiment is optimistic. Just like a bear swipes downward with its paws, the prices tend to fall downwards. To understand bull and bear market meaning, you can difference between the two.

What is a bear in the stock market?

Bear in stock market means an investor who leverages the share market during its downfall.

Characteristics of a Bear Market

Some of the key characteristics of this phase of the financial market are:

  1. Decreasing prices: One of the main characteristics of a bear stock market is the fall in the prices of securities, such as stocks, bonds, and commodities. Several factors such as the slowing economy, recession, or a shift in investor sentiments, contribute to this phase.
  2. Negative sentiment: In the bear market, investors often have a negative outlook on economy and stock market. They become pessimistic about the future of the market and are concerned about the impact of economic conditions on investments.
  3. Low investor confidence: A bear share market can bring down the investor confidence. This leads to a lack in buying activity and results in increased selling trend. This creates a self-perpetuating cycle of declining prices and further negative sentiment.
  4. High volatility: During the phase of bear market, market becomes highly volatile. The prices change dramatically in either direction. This poses challenges for investors who want stability in their investments.
  5. Increased risk: A bear market is a risky phase for investors since declining prices lead to significant losses. Investors have to adjust their investment strategies accordingly and prepare themselves to take on more risk to generate returns.
  6. Long duration: Bear markets may last for a prolonged period, from several months to a year or more. This becomes challenging for investors who want to gain short-term returns or need income from their investments.

Stages of Bear Market

It has the following stages characterized by varying levels of price decline and investor sentiment:

  1. Distribution phase: The distribution phase occurs during the peak of market. At this time, investors feel optimistic due to which buying activity is high. However, smart money investors start selling their positions during this phase, gradually unloading their shares to less sophisticated investors.
  2. Mark-down phase: The mark-down phase begins when the selling pressure starts to exceed buying activity. Prices begin to decline, and the market enters a downtrend. During this phase, investors who have not yet sold their positions begin to experience losses.
  3. Panic phase: In the panic phase, prices decline rapidly, and fear and panic set in among investors. Many investors sell their positions in a rush to avoid further losses, which can exacerbate the decline in prices. This phase is often characterized by high volatility and significant trading volume.
  4. Capitulation phase: This phase is marked by the lowest prices of the bear market. Investors who have been holding onto their positions in the hope of a recovery finally give up and sell their shares. This selling pressure can cause prices to drop even further.
  5. Recovery phase: The recovery phase marks the end of the bear market and the beginning of a new bull market. During this phase, prices begin to rise again, and investor confidence starts to return. The recovery phase can last for a prolonged period and is characterized by increasing buying activity, improving economic conditions, and a return of investor optimism.

Factors Leading to Bear Market

A bear market is led by a variety of factors, including:

  1. Economic recession: During this period of negative economic growth, often characterized by rising unemployment rates, declining consumer spending, and a slowdown in business activity. A recession can trigger a bear market by reducing corporate profits and causing investors to become more risk-averse.
  2. Political uncertainty: Political instability, such as a change in government, geopolitical tensions, or policy changes, can create uncertainty in the markets and lead to a decline in investor confidence. This can cause investors to sell their positions and push prices lower.
  3. Interest rate hikes: When interest rates rise, it increases the cost of borrowing and slows down economic growth. This can cause companies to earn lower profits, which can lead to a decline in their stock prices.
  4. Geopolitical events: Events such as wars, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and pandemics can create uncertainty in the markets and lead to a decline in investor confidence. This can cause investors to sell their positions and push prices lower.
  5. Asset bubbles: When investors become overly optimistic about the prospects of a particular asset class, such as stocks or real estate, it can lead to a speculative bubble. When the bubble bursts, it can trigger a bear market as investors rush to sell their positions.
  6. Oversupply: Oversupply of commodities, such as oil or agricultural products, can cause prices to decline. This causes a ripple effect on the economy and causes a decline in corporate profits, which can lead to a bear market.

Short Selling in Bear Market

Short selling is a type of investment strategy where an investor bets on the decline in a stock's price. Here's how one can perform short selling, particularly in a bear market:

  1. Research and Choose a Stock: Identify a stock you believe will decrease in value. In a bear market, you might look for companies with weak fundamentals, poor earnings forecasts, or those in sectors that are struggling.
  2. Open a Margin Account: To short sell, you'll need a margin account with a brokerage firm because short selling involves borrowing shares that you do not own.
  3. Borrow the Shares: Once you have a margin account, you can borrow shares of the stock from the brokerage. The brokerage may have a list of available stocks that can be shorted.
  4. Sell the Borrowed Shares: After borrowing the shares, you will sell them at current market price.
  5. Wait for the Stock to Decline: If your analysis is correct and the stock price falls, you wait until it reaches your target price or until you decide to cover your short.
  6. Buy Back the Shares: To close out your short position, you buy back the same number of shares at the new, lower price.
  7. Return the Shares: After buying them back, you return the shares to your brokerage, which closes your short position.
  8. Profit or Loss: The difference between price at which you sold the borrowed shares and the price at which you bought them back, minus any fees or interest charged by the brokerage, is your profit or loss.

Risks of Short Selling

  • Unlimited Losses: If the stock price increases instead of declining, your potential losses are unlimited, as there's no cap on how high a stock price can go.
  • Margin Calls: If the stock price rises, you may face a margin call, requiring you to add more funds to your account for maintaining the position.
  • Buy-in Risk: The brokerage can force you to cover your short position if it becomes difficult for them to borrow the shares.
  • Regulatory Risks: Certain regulations may prevent you from short selling or could be introduced in response to market conditions.
  • Interest and Fees: You will owe interest on the borrowed shares, and there may be additional fees, reducing potential profits.

Tips for Short Selling in a Bear Market

Short selling in a bear market can be profitable when done correctly, but it requires careful analysis, risk management, and an understanding of market dynamics. It's often recommended for experienced investors due to its complex and risky nature.

  • Use Stop-Loss Orders: To limit potential losses, consider using stop-loss orders, which automatically cover the short if the price reaches a certain level.
  • Stay Informed: Be up to date with market news and company announcements that could affect stock prices.
  • Be Prepared for Volatility: Bear markets can be volatile, with sudden price swings that could go against your position.
  • Manage Risk: Never invest more than you risk to lose while considering the high-risk nature of short selling.

Risks Associated With Bear Market 

There are several risks that investors should be aware of:

  • Market risk: It is characterized by falling prices, which can result in significant losses for investors who hold securities during a downturn. This risk is particularly significant for investors who rely on their investments for income or who have a shorter investment horizon.
  • Liquidity risk: During a bear market, trading volume tends to decline, and it can be more difficult to buy or sell securities at a fair price. This can create liquidity risk, where investors may not be able to liquidate their positions when they need to.
  • Credit risk: In a bear market, the risk of defaults on loans and bonds increases, particularly for companies that are struggling financially. This leads to a decline in the value of these securities and potentially significant losses for investors.
  • Interest rate risk: As interest rates rise during this phase, the value of fixed-income securities, such as bonds, may decline. This can result in losses for investors who hold these securities.
  • Opportunity cost: In a bear market, investors who sell their positions to avoid further losses prevent gaining potential gains when the market recovers. This is known as opportunity cost and can result in lower returns over the long-term.
  • Behavioral risk: During a bear market, investors may be more likely to make emotional decisions, such as selling their positions based on fear or panic. This leads to unwise investment decisions and significant losses.
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While investing in a bear market, investors should consider diversifying their portfolios, investing in defensive stocks, and maintaining a long-term investment objective. It is also important to investment decisions during times of market volatility so that a clear exit strategy can be built. By identifying the risks associated with a bear market, investors can protect themselves from losses and achieve their long-term financial goals.

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What is bear run trading?

A bear run in trading is a market condition during which the security prices are falling and results in negative sentiments among investors.

What are bear stocks?

Bear stocks are those stocks that are expected to see a decline in their value.

What is the difference between bull and bear market?

The main difference between bull and bear market is in the stock price movement. In bear market, stock prices are falling whereas in bull market, prices are increasing.

Explain what is bullish and bearish trend?

Bullish trend occurs when stock prices are rising and are expected to continue rising. Investors believe that market conditions will continue to improve. On the other hand, bearish trend is a trend in stock market refers to the condition where stock prices are falling and investors are becoming pessimistic.

About the Author
Jaya Sharma
Assistant Manager - Content

Jaya is a writer with an experience of over 5 years in content creation and marketing. Her writing style is versatile since she likes to write as per the requirement of the domain. She has worked on Technology, Fina... Read Full Bio