A bear market is a term used by Wall Street when an index like the S&P 500, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, or even an individual stock, has fallen 20% or more from a recent high for a sustained period of time.
Why use a bear to represent a market slump? Bears hibernate, so bears represent a market that’s retreating, said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA. In contrast, Wall Street’s nickname for a surging stock market is a bull market, because bulls charge, Stovall said.
The S&P 500, Wall Street’s main barometer of health, slid 3.9% Monday. The index fell an additional 0.5% as of midday Tuesday and is 22.2% below its record set early this year and now in a bear market.
The Dow industrials sank 2.8% Monday and the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite, which already was in a bear market, tumbled 4.7%.
The most recent bear market for the S&P 500 ran from February 19, 2020 through March 23, 2020. The index fell 34% in that one-month period, the shortest bear market ever.