The longest bull market in American history was dealt a scary brush with death late last year. But it survived, narrowly, and it’s now been alive for a decade.
The market upswing, born out of the ashes of the Great Recession, turned 10 years old on Saturday.
The S&P 500 has more than quadrupled from its devil’s bottom of 666 in March 2009. The Dow has spiked nearly 19,000 points, or almost 300%. And the Nasdaq has skyrocketed just under 500%.
The remarkable bull market reflects the slow-but-steady recovery in the economy, record corporate profits and ridiculously easy money from global central bankers. Extremely low interest rates and massive central bank balance sheets left investors hoping to generate decent returns with little choice but to gamble on risky stocks.
The 10th birthday of the bull market brings about an obvious question: If it’s already the oldest in history, how much longer can it last? But the adage is that bull markets and economic expansions don’t die of old age.
“Bull markets don’t have expiration dates,” said Scott Clemons, chief investment strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman. “A bull market usually comes to an end when financial excesses go to extremes, and we don’t see that anywhere right now.”
The market anniversary deserves a bit of an asterisk. That’s because the S&P 500 hasn’t closed at a record high since September. If the broad index closes in a bear market prior to hitting a new high, history will say the bull market officially ended last fall.
In other words, it would have spanned just under a decade.
It’s also worth noting that while the bull market is the longest on record, it’s not the strongest. That title goes to the 1990s bull market, which lifted the S&P by 417% at its peak, according to LPL Financial.
The market mayhem of late 2018 served as a blunt reminder: The bull market won’t last forever. In fact, the Dow and S&P 500 nearly closed last December in a bear market, defined as a 20% decline from prior highs. And the Nasdaq did officially enter a bear market as Wall Street freaked out about an imminent recession.