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Posted on 9 April 2011 | 3,521 views

Six Worst Bear Markets Since 1871 on the S&P 500

Bear markets, defined as a period where the market goes down 20% or more — from peak to trough, happen frequently — in the last 108 years — from 1900 – 2008 — it has happened 32 times, or about 1 out of every 3 years. The average length of a bear market is 367 days.

In the last 75 years (i.e., 1934-2008), as measured by calendar year, the S&P 500 stock index has suffered total return losses of at least 20% in four different years, the most recent was 2008’s 37.0% decline. In the year after the three previous 20%+ tumbles, the index gained an average of +32%.

Here are the 6 worst bear markets of all time for the S&P 500 since January 1871, which is as far back as our data for the S&P 500 stock market index goes.

The S&P 500’s Six Worst Bear Markets Since 1871
Rank Peak Date Trough Date Peak Trough Drop
1 September 1929 June 1932 31.3 4.77 -84.8%
2 October 2007 March 2009 1565.15 676.53 -56.8%
3 August 2000 February 2003 1485.46 837.03 -43.7%
4 April 1973 December 1974 118.4 67.07 -43.4%
5 August 1937 April 1938 16.74 9.89 -40.9%
6 February 1876 June 1877 4.52 2.73 -39.6%
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