Bull Markets vs Bear Markets: The Differences Explained

No one can predict when markets will rise or fall, but it's good to be aware of the differences between bull markets vs bear markets.

A sculpture of a bull facing up against a bear, depicting the idea of bull vs bear markets.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Among the key technical terms investors hear bandied about are "bull markets" vs "bear markets." Both are part of a typical long-term market cycle, but what's the difference?

Bull markets are those that show consistently rising stock prices on average over a period of time, usually at least six months. The longest bull market occurred just after the Great Recession, starting in 2009 and running through 2020. 

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Mark R. Hake, CFA
Contributing writer, Kiplinger

Mark R. Hake, CFA, is a Chartered Financial Analyst and entrepreneur. He has been writing on stocks for over six years and has also owned his own investment management and research firms focused on U.S. and international value stocks, for over 10 years. In addition, he worked on the buy side for investment firms, hedge funds, and investment divisions of insurance companies for the past 36 years. Lately, he is also working as Chief Strategy Officer for a tech start-up company, Foldstar Inc, based in Princeton, New Jersey.