As a beginning investor, sometimes you can listen to the news or hear market re-caps, and be utterly confused by the lingo. You may have heard reference in the past to the concept of a 'bear' or a 'bull' market. Even outside the New York Stock Exchange, they have a statue of this lovely beauty:
So what is the difference between a bull market and a bear market and how did they get those names?
Interestingly, the difference between the two boils down to their method of aggression or attack. A bear when poised to attack takes it's paw and swipes downward. For bulls, it's exactly the opposite. Think Pamplona and the running of the bulls for a minute. Bulls will move their heads low and thrust quickly upwards, hoping to skewer unsuspecting runners with their horns. So what does this have to do with the market? Both animals' attacks are supposed to symbolize the movement of the market and investor confidence (more about that in a moment). In a bear market, you would expect to see market prices decline, while in a bull market, the opposite would be seen. Some investment experts cite a 20% decrease in value from the peak of the bull stock market as the sign of the bear market.
The animal choices are also not completely random. Some of the first commodity traders were bear skin sellers. After selling orders of bear skins, the traders would hope that the price would go down on the skins before they purchased them. They would still charge their customers the same cost, thus making a larger profit. They would actually hope for a 'bear' market and would use that to turn a profit.