The last bull market for US stocks was about to end on Thursday afternoon, with the S&P 500 index holding shy of the threshold indicating bearish territory.
S&P 500 SPX Index,
It fell 73 points, or 1.9%, to 3,860.88 in afternoon trade, after Wednesday ending about 18% below its record close in early January. A finish below 3,837.25 would represent a 20% drop, according to Dow Jones market data, meeting the widely used technical definition of a bear market.
The S&P 500 entered correction territory – down 10% from its recent peak – last month, its second breakout this year. A tough April for stocks was followed by an ugly May, as stocks struggled as investors continue to dump big tech stocks and other pandemic darlings amid investor concerns about inflation that remains historically hot and the Federal Reserve moves to quickly raise interest rates and tighten monetary policy in an effort to control price pressures.
Eagerly awaited hopes for consumer price inflation in April on Wednesday will show inflation has peaked, helping to stabilize the ship and offering little consolation to nervous investors. While the annual inflation pace slowed to 8.3% from 8.5% in March, it was still hotter than the 8.1% reading economists had expected. Moreover, the core CPI reading, which excludes food and energy, showed an unexpected monthly rise.
The S&P 500 is down 6.5% so far in May, while the high-tech Nasdaq Composite is down,
which entered a bear market earlier this year, is down 9.6% so far in May and the leading DJIA Dow Jones Industrial Average,
It decreased by about 5.2%.
The S&P 500 ended its last bull market on March 12, 2020, as the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic sent stocks tumbling. The bottom of the pandemic-inspired bear market came on March 23, 2020, with the S&P 500 index down 33.9% from the bull market peak on February 19, 2020.
Based on numbers going back to 1929, the average bear sees a peak bear market decline of 33.5%, and an average decline of 33.2%, according to Dow Jones market data. On average, it took 80 trading days for the S&P 500 to bottom out after entering a bear market — and an average of 52 trading days, the data showed.