If there has been one ubiquitous topic on the lips of all investors, journalists and analysts this year, it's the bull market - namely, the longest bull market since World War II.
According to most experts, Aug. 22, 2018 marked the longest bull market in history - lasting 3,453 days. Major indexes like the S&P 500 (^GSPC) have more than quadrupled since their lows in 2009. And while the market has been nothing less than volatile in recent weeks, the bull run might not be finished yet.
But, how did we get here? And how long will the bull market last?
What Is a Bull Market?
A bull market is a market pattern that occurs when prices keep rising up 20% from a previous drop of 20%. A bull market can refer to the securities market (like stocks and bonds), but can also refer to other markets like housing.
Factors that affect bull markets include investor confidence (or, when investors are "bullish" on a security or market), a strong gross domestic product (GDP), high employment, and other factors. The main indexes that track bull markets are the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DOW) - Get Report , the Nasdaq (^IXIC) and the S&P 500 (^GSPC) - which all typically rise together in a bull market.
Longest Bull Market in History
Aug. 22, 2018 marked the longest bull market in history. Over the course of 3,453 days, the market rose from the ashes of the 2008 Financial Crisis - where indexes were sitting at lows - to record highs in 2018.
While there are numerous factors that have contributed to the bullish run, corporate tax cuts and the rise of tech stocks seem to have helped propel the market to new heights.
In fact, tech stocks appear to have been a large contributor to the market gains over recent years, with their astronomical market caps pushing the indexes higher.
According to Dan North, chief economist at Euler Hermes North America, the markets are based on "expectations of future interest rates and expectations of future earnings growth."
"A lot of this bull market has been driven by technology stocks," North told NBC News this summer. "They have accounted for a significant amount of the gains, especially the past few years - and that is typical. Tech is typically where you see some of the strongest growth and that's where America competes very well."
Still, the market hasn't been all sunshine for these some odd 10 years. In fact, the S&P 500 plunged into correction territory by falling 10% in January of this year. And, the downgrading of America's credit rating in 2011 coupled with several other scares like the Chinese economic slowdown and the volatility brought on by Brexit in 2016 nearly toppled the record. Additionally, while the current 2009-2018 bull market is the longest, the S&P 500 gains from the 1990-2000 bull run actually top that of the current market, gaining 417% compared to the current gains of around 324%.
However, those like President Trump are proclaiming the bull market as the longest. And, in fact, the bull run of the Obama-Trump administrations beats out those of Eisenhower, Reagan and Clinton.
On August 21, the 2009-2018 bull market tied the previous record, which ran from October 1990 to March 2000.
And while there are many hypotheses about why this bull market has taken off for so long, some argue that it is actually global consumers that have fueled the bullish attitude.
"The consumer is in great shape and there is a lot of confidence in the economy," Cliff Hodge, director of investments at Charlotte-based Cornerstone Wealth, told TheStreet earlier this year. "We're also encouraged that markets have been resilient, shaking off headlines on Turkey, tariffs and trade but without a sense of euphoria which is common at the end of market cycles."
Longest Bull Market Facts
Let's break this down.
According to a general consensus, the longest bull market since World War II spanned 3,453 days on August 22, 2018. The bull market started on March 9, 2009.
The three major indexes - the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DOW) - Get Report , S&P 500 (^GSPC) and Nasdaq (^IXIC) - all increased from lows on March 9, 2009 of 6,547 points, 676 points and 1,268 points respectively. As of August 22, 2018, all three indexes were up to 25,822 points, 2,862 points and 7,859 points respectively.
The Nasdaq was up over 500% in August, while the S&P 500 and Dow followed suit with over 320% and 300% in gains respectively. As of last year, the S&P 500 delivered impressive returns of 18.4%, and had already gained 7% as of Aug. 22 this year.
The Dow's highest day was on Oct. 3, 2018, closing at 26,828 points. The S&P 500 hit its high of 2,930 points on Sept. 20, 2018, while the Nasdaq reached its peak on August 29, 2018, closing at over 8,109 points.
Among several factors, tech played a large role in pushing the indexes higher, as FANG stocks like Facebook (FB) - Get Report , Amazon (AMZN) - Get Report , Apple (AAPL) - Get Report , Alphabet (GOOG) - Get Report and Netflix (NFLX) - Get Report pulled the Nasdaq up with their mammoth market caps.
Some of the major contributors to the bull run included corporate tax cuts, rising tech stocks and interest rates.
Longest Bull Market Debate
Yet, despite the countless bullish investors and media touting the longest bull market in history has occurred, the issue is very much up for debate.
Many analysts actually assert that the March 9, 2009 to August 22, 2018 bull market isn't the longest. Among them is Richard Stuttmeier, CEO and founder at Global Market Consultant, Ltd.
According to Stuttmeier and many others like him, there have been several smaller bear markets within the large bull run, allegedly negating its record.
TheStreet's own newsroom took up the debate earlier this year, with opinion still divided.
Still others claim that the manner in which the bull market has been measured is slightly off. In fact, Jeff Hirsch, editor of the Stock Trader's Almanac, wrote in a blog post that he believes the longest bull record won't be secured until 2023.
"Using Ned Davis rules, the longest bull began on Oct. 11, 1990, and ran for 2,836 calendar days until July 17, 1998," Hirsch wrote. By Ned Davis Research rules, a bull market can't begin until there is a 30% rise in the Dow after 50 days or a 13% rise after 155 days.
If analysts base their estimates off of these rules, according to Hirsch, the current bull market didn't start until Feb. 11, 2016, and wouldn't hit the record until late 2023.
Still, according to traditional calculations based on bull markets, it seems as though the majority conclude that August 22, 2018 did in fact mark the longest bull market in history.
Headed to Recession?
So, where is this market going? Headed into a recession?
Some like Blackstone vice chairman Byron Wien are still bullish on the market.
"The bull market is not over, we are only in the fifth inning," Wien told TheStreet this year.
Additionally, Greg Luken, CEO of Luken Investment Analytics, believes there may still be time yet.
"The three Ts, Trump, tariffs and trade, are sort of a wet blanket on the embers of growth, but ... the market can still go higher," Luken told CNBC in August. "Bull markets don't die of old age; they die of euphoria and we're nowhere near euphoria."
But for others, taxes and other federal programs have had a big impact.
"Clearly, the level of fiscal stimulus from both the tax reforms and the size of the budget deficit are adding fuel to the economy," Tony Roth, chief investment officer at Wilmington Trust Investment Advisers, told NBC News this August. "We've never seen a budget deficit like that outside of a recessionary period in the post-war era. The budget deficit and the tax reform have had very upward impact on the economy."
Still, many are bearish about rising interest rates (as controversy sparked between the president and the Federal Reserve), tariffs and the China-U.S. trade war.
Voicing the concerns of many others, Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial (PRU) - Get Report , noted that the volatile political climate has been affecting the market - and she seems bearish.
She told CNBC that "this is a low volume period in the market," declaring that August and September "tend to be choppy" as stocks are being "jostled very quickly by a single headline." Additionally, Krosby told CNBC that the market seems to be "hedging itself" with the many "threads" affecting stocks, including the Fed, banks and trade.
"While we've seen drops maybe from 20% to 50% in the past, this one will be more of a garden variety recession. No big bubble associated with it," Kleintop told TheStreet back in June. "But that's still probably a year or so away. I think we're still in the melt up before that meltdown."
"Looking at the factors at play today, between ongoing tariff tensions and a greater 'America-first' focus, producers and consumers are looking domestically for goods and services," Loewengart told TheStreet in August. "So with U.S. raw materials, like lumber and tools, growing in demand, it will help drive this sector up."
Still, threats like inflation and the trade war (which may be resolved soon, although there is still great speculation) might tip bearish investors over the edge and signal the downfall of the market. And David Kelly, chief global strategist at JPMorgan Funds (JPM) - Get Report , thinks trouble is brewing.
"The biggest threat to the expansion is a letdown from the sugar high of fiscal stimulus," Kelly told CNN Business this year.