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Bull market is now longest in history

The bull market is expected to become the longest on record Wednesday, having persisted for 3,453 days.

Why it matters: Investors have been in the black for nearly a decade, immediately following the worst financial crisis of most of their lifetimes.

Data: Yahoo Finance and S&P Dow Jones Indices; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

How we got here

The generally accepted start date is March 9, 2009 — which is when the S&P 500 hit a low of 666.

  • Ed Yardeni, the founder of Yardeni Research, tells Axios that if anyone had told him the market would have these kind of gains after the Great Recession, he and many of his peers would have been skeptical.
  • It hasn’t been a perfectly smooth ride. There were several corrections (a price decline of 10% or more) and “mini-corrections” along the way, such as during the Greek debt crisis, fiscal cliff debate, and the Brexit vote.

Wednesday could mark a big technical milestone, but not everyone on Wall Street even agrees that we've hit it. Some argue that the 1990's bull market ran longer, while others disagree with the notion that this bull market legitimately began in 2009.

  • Yardeni, for example, thinks stocks are in their second-longest bull run, and the number to beat is actually 4,494 days. He starts the clock on the previous longest bull market in 1987, not 1990 like other market-watchers, because he believes the 19.9% decline in 1990 qualified only as a correction, not an actual bear market.

Where we go next

When bull markets get old, people expect them to die.

  • “Bull markets are like incandescent light bulbs. They tend to glow brightest just before they go out,” Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at research firm CFRA, tells Reuters.
  • Bearish investors point to several possible tipping points, including escalating trade tensions, European worries (including Italy's debt load) and if the Fed is unexpectedly aggressive when it comes to raising interest rates.

Bulls, on the other hand, will point to solid quarterly earnings, rising consumer confidence and strong economic growth.

Be smart

Age may just be a number. As Yardeni puts it:

“The obsession about the length of the bull says more about investor psychology than about the market. This bull has been described as the most hated one in history, and investors have found reason after reason not to buy in, even as the S&P 500 has quadrupled.”
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