Bear and Bull Cycles: What They Mean and How to Take Advantage as an Investor

Andrew Carr
| Editor:
April 24, 2024
7 min read

Bull vs Bear Cycles

The cryptocurrency market, just like any other investment market, experiences phases of upward trends, known as bull markets, and downward trends, referred to as bear markets.

A bull market is characterized by increased investor confidence and an upward trend in the prices of cryptocurrencies. Investors are optimistic about future price increases and there's a general sense of positivity in the market.

On the other hand, a bear market is identified by a prevailing pessimism among investors. In this phase, the prices of cryptocurrencies are on a downward trend. Bear markets are characterized by a cycle where investors lose faith in prices, and sell off assets, causing further declines, which leads to more investors keeping their money out of the market.

Bear markets can be triggered by various factors including government intervention, changes in tax rates or interest rates, or drops in investor confidence. A bear market is usually not considered unless it has fallen 20% or more from recent highs. In such a market, asset prices are continuously dropping, leading to a downward trend with an expected continuing decline.

During a bull market, investors can typically expect to see their investments grow in value. This is a great time to take advantage of the upward trend and potentially realize significant gains.

In contrast, during a bear market, the value of investments can decline significantly. However, investors should stay calm and 'play dead' to avoid making sudden moves that could be detrimental to their portfolio.

Characteristics of Bear Markets

Bear markets are typically shorter than bull markets but are often characterized by sharp and painful losses. According to research compiled by Invesco, bear markets last on average 349 days, as opposed to 1,742 days for a bull market.

However, the losses incurred during bear markets can be significant. On average, bear markets have seen losses of 36.34%, compared with gains of 180.04% during bull markets.

In terms of the stock market, a bear market is usually defined by a drop of 20% or more and a sustained downward trend for two months or more. It is accompanied by sluggish economic conditions, layoffs, and risk aversion among investors.

An example of along bear market would be the so-called "crypto winter" of 2022 when the price of Bitcoin has declined significantly since reaching it's previous all-time high of around $68,000 in late 2021.

Causes and Effects

Bear markets can be triggered by a variety of factors, including changes in government policies, shifts in tax rates or interest rates, and drops in investor confidence. On average, there have been 33 bear markets since 1900, occurring every 3.6 years.

The effects of a bear market are characterized by a cycle where investors lose faith in stock prices, leading to a sell-off of stocks. This further depresses prices, which in turn leads to more investors pulling their money out of the market. This cyclical nature of bear markets can create a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts, where the negative sentiment feeds into even greater market declines.

Strategies for Bear Markets


Diversification is a key strategy for any investor, particularly during bear markets. By spreading investments across a variety of assets, investors can reduce the risk associated with a single asset's decline. 

This strategy is particularly useful in the cryptocurrency markets, where volatility can be considerably higher compared to traditional asset classes. Diversification, however, does not guarantee profit or protect against loss in a declining market.

Defensive Stock Investments

During a bear market, shifting from growth assets to more defensive sectors can be a wise decision. Defensive or non-cyclical assets, which provide consistent returns and stable earnings during market downturns, are considered better investments during bear markets. In the world of cryptocurrency, this could mean shifting toward more established cryptocurrencies or platforms with robust fundamentals.

In a market downturn, aiming for high-quality dividend-paying assets is advisable. Seeking companies with strong balance sheets that pay regular dividends, especially those with a history of increasing dividends per share, can potentially offer better risk-adjusted returns over the long term.

Dollar-Cost Averaging

Dollar-cost averaging (DCA) is another key strategy during bear markets. This approach involves purchasing a fixed dollar amount of a particular asset on a regular schedule, regardless of its price. 

By implementing this strategy, investors can buy more of the asset when prices are low, ultimately leading to a better overall entry price for their shares. This strategy can be particularly effective in highly volatile markets such as cryptocurrencies.

Investor Behavior in Bear Markets

In a bear market, investor behavior plays a significant role. Bear markets are characterized by a cycle where investors lose faith in stock prices, leading to a sell-off of stocks, which causes further declines and discourages more investors from entering the market.

During these times, investors are advised to stay calm and 'play dead' — that is, avoid making hasty decisions that could be detrimental to their portfolios. Defensive or non-cyclical stocks, which provide consistent dividends and stable earnings during difficult times, are often considered better investments during bear markets.

Bull Market Dynamics

Bull markets tend to last longer than their bear market counterparts, with an average length of 2.7 years. They are marked by a series of price increases, leading to higher market valuations. During a bull market, trading volume often increases due to heightened investor interest, which also boosts market liquidity.

There are a few key characteristics that typically define a bull market. This includes companies rewarding shareholders through increased dividends and an increase in companies going public through Initial Public Offerings (IPOs).

Interestingly, the longest bull market in the history of the S&P 500 lasted from March 2009 to February 2020. During this period, the index gained over 300%, highlighting the potential for significant growth during bull cycles. For a more detailed explanation of the dynamics of a bull market, check out our article on bull market explained.

Bull markets generally coincide with periods when the economy is strengthening or already strong. This is often reflected in strong Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth, lower unemployment rates, and increased corporate profits.

These economic indicators can act as signals for investors, suggesting a potential bull market. However, it's crucial to remember that markets can be unpredictable and these indicators should not be used in isolation. Investors should use a combination of fundamental and technical analysis to make informed investment decisions.

When it comes to crypto, some analyst predict the return of the bull market at 2024, citing the Lightning Network upgrades, Ethereum Merge, and other factors.

By recognizing the signs of a bull market and understanding its typical characteristics, investors can make more strategic investment decisions and potentially capitalize on market upturns.

Long-Term Investment Opportunities

During a bear market, investors can explore various long-term investment opportunities. One of the strategies is to shift from growth stocks to more defensive sectors like Healthcare, Consumer Staples, and Energy. These sectors tend to be more resilient and often outperform indices during a bear market.

Another strategy is to aim for high-quality dividend stocks. Large companies with strong balance sheets that pay regular dividends, especially those with a history of increasing dividends per share, can potentially offer better risk-adjusted returns over the long term.

Moreover, companies that have consistently earned high returns on invested capital (ROIC) during past recessions are likely to perform well during market downturns. High ROIC signifies efficient use of investors' funds to generate income, crucial for a company's survival in challenging bear market conditions.

Short-Term Trading Strategies

For those looking at short-term trading, different strategies come into play during bear markets. One such strategy is short selling. This technique involves selling borrowed shares with the hope of buying them back at lower prices. While it can result in gains during a bear market, it's important to note that it's an extremely risky trade and can cause heavy losses if it does not work out.


Understanding bear and bull cycles is essential for investors to navigate the cryptocurrency market successfully. Bear markets are characterized by downward trends, triggered by factors such as government policies or drops in investor confidence. 

While they typically last for shorter durations than bull markets, they can lead to significant losses. Investors can employ strategies like diversification, defensive stock investments, and dollar-cost averaging to mitigate risks during bear cycles.

On the other hand, bull markets are marked by upward trends and increased investor confidence. They present opportunities for significant growth and are typically accompanied by strong economic indicators. Investors can capitalize on bull cycles by recognizing their characteristics and making strategic investment decisions.

Whether in a bear or bull market, investors should remain vigilant and adapt their strategies accordingly. Long-term investment opportunities exist in defensive sectors and high-quality dividend stocks during bear markets, while short-term trading strategies like short selling can be considered for more aggressive traders. By understanding the dynamics of bear and bull cycles, investors can navigate market fluctuations and optimize their investment returns.

Subscribe to our newsletter
Sign up to receive the latest news and updates about your wallet.
Related Posts