What is a bull market?
A bull market (or bull run) is a state of a financial market where prices are rising. The term bull market is often used in the context of the stock market. However, it can be used in any financial market – including Forex, bonds, commodities, real estate, and cryptocurrencies. Besides, a bull market may also refer to a specific asset such as Bitcoin or Ethereum. It could even refer to a sector, such as utility tokens, privacy coins, or biotech stocks.
You may have heard traders from Wall Street use the terms “bullish” and “bearish.” When a trader says they are bullish on a market, it means that they expect prices to rise. When they are bearish, they expect prices to decline.
Being bullish can often mean that they are also long that market, though that may not necessarily be the case. Being bullish may not necessarily mean that a long trade opportunity is present right now, just that prices are rising or are expected to rise.
It’s also worth noting that a bull market doesn’t mean that prices don’t fall or fluctuate. This is why it’s more sensible to consider bull markets on larger time frames. In this sense, bull markets will contain periods of decline or consolidation without breaking the major market trend.
The definition of a bull market depends on what time frame we’re talking about. Generally, when we’re using the term bull market, we are talking about a time frame of months or years. As with other market analysis techniques, higher time frame trends will have more validity than lower time frame trends.
As such, there may be prolonged periods of decline in a high timeframe bull market. These counter-trend price movements have a notoriety for being especially volatile – though this can vary greatly.
Bull market examples
Some of the most well-known examples of bull markets come from the stock market. These are the times when stock prices and market indexes (such as the Nasdaq 100) are continually rising.
As far as the global economy is concerned, it fluctuates between bull and bear markets. These economic cycles can last years, even decades. Some say that the bull market starting from the aftermath of the 2008 Financial Crisis and lasting until the coronavirus pandemic was “the longest bull market in history.” This may or may not be true – as we’ve said, high time frame bull markets can be a matter of perspective.
Some argue that we could see a similar trend with Bitcoin. But we can’t really tell if and when Bitcoin will face a multi-year bear market. It’s also worth noting that most other cryptocurrencies (i.e., altcoins) will probably never experience similar price appreciation, so be extremely aware of what you invest in.
Bull market vs. bear market – what’s the difference?
These are opposite concepts, so the difference isn’t particularly difficult to guess. Prices are continuously going up in a bull market, while prices are continually going down in a bear market.
This also results in differences in how it may be best to trade them. In a bull market, traders and investors will generally want to be long. While in a bear market, they either want to be short or stay in cash.
In some cases, staying in cash (or stablecoins) may also mean shorting the market, since we’re expecting prices to decline. The main difference is that staying in cash is more about preserving capital while shorting is about profiting off the decline in asset prices. But if you sell an asset expecting to buy it back lower, you’re essentially in a short position – even if you are not directly profiting from the drop.
One additional thing to consider is fees. Staying in stablecoins will likely not incur any fees, as there typically isn’t a cost to custody. However, many short positions will require a funding fee or interest rate to keep the position open. This is why quarterly futures may be ideal for long-term short positions, as there is no funding fee associated with them.
How traders can take advantage of bull markets
The main idea behind trading bull markets is relatively simple. Prices are going up, so going long and buying dips is generally a reasonable strategy. This is why the buy and hold strategy and dollar-cost averaging are generally well-suited for long-term bull markets.
There’s a saying that goes like this: “The trend is your friend until it’s not.” This just means that it makes sense to trade with the direction of the market trend. At the same time, no trend will last forever, and the same strategy may not perform well in other parts of a market cycle. The only certainty is that the markets can and will change. As we’ve seen with the COVID-19 outbreak, multi-year bull markets can be wiped out in a matter of weeks.
Naturally, most investors will be bullish in a bull market. This makes sense since prices are going up, so the overall sentiment should also be bullish. However, even during a bull market, some investors will be bearish. If their trading strategy accommodates it, they may even be successful with short-term bearish trades, such as shorting.
As such, some traders will try to short the recent highs in a bull market. However, these are advanced strategies and are generally more suitable for professional traders. As a less experienced trader, it’s usually more sensible to trade according to the trend. Many investors get trapped trying to short bull markets. After all, stepping in front of a raging bull or a locomotive can be a dangerous undertaking.