A bear market is when a market experiences prolonged price declines. It typically describes a condition in which securities prices fall 20% or more from recent highs. Bear markets are often associated with declines in an overall market or index like the S&P 500, but individual securities or commodities can also be considered to be in a bear market if they experience a decline of 20% or more over a sustained period of time—typically two months or more. Bear markets may accompany general economic downturns such as a recession.
The causes of a bear market vary, but in general, bear markets are accompanied by a weak or slowing economy. The signs of a weak or slowing economy are typically low employment, low disposable income, weak productivity and a drop in business profits.
In March 2020, global stocks entered a sudden bear market in the wake of the global coronavirus pandemic.