10 Things You Must Know About Bull Markets

It's easy to look smart when most stocks are gaining day after day, but how much do you really know about the workings of bull markets?

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There’s a saying on Wall Street: Don’t confuse brains with a bull market.

After all, when most stocks are gaining day after day, it’s easy to look smart. Indeed, the market has been in bull mode for so much of the last decade-plus, it's hard to remember what challenging investing looks like.

Technical analysts differ on the definition of a bull market, but by one measure the S&P 500 confirmed it's in a bull on Aug. 18, 2020, when it closed above its previous all-time high recorded earlier in the year, on Feb. 19.

The S&P 500's longest bull market in history began in March 2009 and ended abruptly in March 2020, clobbered by coronavirus fears. The ensuing bear market cut fast and deep, but bottomed out in late March. About a month after its nadir, the market returned to bull-market territory and just kept chugging along.

Indeed, from the March 23 bottom to Aug. 18's record high, which confirmed the new bull market, the S&P 500 rose a remarkable 52%.

Justified or not, those of us who have stuck around in stocks are probably feeling pretty brainy these days. Still, there’s plenty more to know about extended runs in stocks. Read on to learn 10 things you must know about bull markets.

Anne Kates Smith
Executive Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Anne Kates Smith brings Wall Street to Main Street, with decades of experience covering investments and personal finance for real people trying to navigate fast-changing markets, preserve financial security or plan for the future. She oversees the magazine's investing coverage,  authors Kiplinger’s biannual stock-market outlooks and writes the "Your Mind and Your Money" column, a take on behavioral finance and how investors can get out of their own way. Smith began her journalism career as a writer and columnist for USA Today. Prior to joining Kiplinger, she was a senior editor at U.S. News & World Report and a contributing columnist for TheStreet. Smith is a graduate of St. John's College in Annapolis, Md., the third-oldest college in America.