What Is the Longest Bear Market in US History?

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If you want to take the optimistic view of the bear market that officially began this week, you can expect that the latest it will end will be around February 2024. The pessimistic view is that it might last until July of 2027.

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Those very divergent time frames are based on how different sources calculate the longest bear market in U.S. history. Depending on whose formula you use, the longest bear market ever could range from 21 months to five-plus years.

The U.S. stock market officially entered a bear market on Monday, June 13, for the first time in two years. It happened after the S&P 500 closed more than 21% below its all-time record close established in January.

As GOBankingRates previously reported, the average bear market lasts anywhere from about 9.5 months to 13 months, depending on the formula.

So what is the longest bear market in U.S. history?

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According to Seeking Alpha — which analyzed every bear market since 1928 — the longest-ever bear market occurred in 1973-74, when it lasted 630 days, or about 21 months. The stock market shed about 48% during that period. The second-longest bear market, from 1980-82, lasted 622 days. If the current bear market lasts 630 days, you can expect it to wrap up during the first quarter of 2024.

A separate analysis from ABC News found that the longest bear market lasted 61 months and ended in March 1942. That bear market cut the index by 60%. At that rate, the current bear market will last until the summer of 2027.

Another take is offered by Nasdaq, which pegs the longest bear market for the S&P 500 at 2.8 years, or about 34 months. That one occurred during the Great Depression. Since the 1950s, the longest bear market was in the early 2000s, when the dot com bubble burst. It lasted 2.1 years, or about 25 months.

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Looking for a cheerier scenario? According to Seeking Alpha, the shortest bear market lasted 33 days. That one occurred during the first quarter of 2022, in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. If the current bear market follows that pattern, it should wrap up next month. But that’s highly unlikely to happen, experts say.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.
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