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What you should know about investing during a bull market

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When it feels like the stock market just can't be stopped, investors feel confident and tend to buy more assets. Economic indicators are high. All those factors can build upon themselves, pointing to signs of a bull market.

While it's certainly a time of optimism in the economy, a bull market still requires a balanced approach when it comes to investing. Diversification, risk management and a long-term perspective are key to navigating the likely benefits and potential risks.

Let's explore what causes a bull market, how it compares to its inverse—the bear market—and how you can prepare your portfolio for such an event.

What is a bull market?

A bull market refers to a sustained period of rising prices and optimism in the financial markets, typically related to stocks, but it can also apply to other assets like bonds, commodities or real estate. Generally, a bull market is defined as a 20% rise in the broader stock market off the most recent market low.

While bull markets are characterized by a general upward trend, they're not immune to temporary corrections or setbacks. The mood in the market can shift due to factors like economic data releases, geopolitical events, changes in central bank policies or unforeseen events. A bull market may eventually transition into a bear market, which is characterized by a prolonged period of falling prices and negative sentiment.

What causes a bull market?

With the upward trend and high investor confidence combined, buying activity increases. This often results in a cycle of higher prices, attracting more investors and driving further price increases.

You'll often see these key characteristics associated with a bull market:

  • Rising prices: The prices of assets, such as stocks, consistently increase over an extended period, often months or even years.
  • Optimism and confidence: Investors generally have a positive outlook on the economy, corporate earnings and the overall direction of the market. This optimism encourages more buying than selling.
  • Higher trading volume: Bull markets typically see greater trading volume as more investors participate in the market, trying to capitalize on the upward momentum.
  • Economic growth: Bull markets often coincide with periods of economic expansion, as strong economic indicators can fuel investor confidence.
  • Multiple industry performance: During a bull market, multiple industries and sectors within the market tend to experience growth, reflecting broader market optimism.
  • Low unemployment: A strong job market and low unemployment rates are often associated with bull markets, as they signal a healthy economy and greater consumer spending.

How long does a bull market usually last?

The duration of a bull market and its different phases can vary widely based on economic conditions, market dynamics and external factors. A bull market can last anywhere from a few years to a decade or more. Historically, bull markets have averaged around four to five years, but some have gone on much longer.

What are the phases of a bull market?

Bull markets typically go through several distinct periods. They're not always neatly delineated and can overlap, but they provide a general framework for understanding the evolution of a bull market:

Phase 1: Early accumulation or recovery

  • This phase follows a bear market or period of market decline.
  • Investor sentiment is cautious and valuations are relatively low.
  • Savvy investors start accumulating undervalued stocks, anticipating a potential recovery.

Phase 2: Mid-stage expansion

  • Economic indicators start showing signs of improvement, such as rising corporate earnings, increased consumer spending and declining unemployment.
  • Investor confidence grows and more investors enter the market.
  • Stock prices begin to rise and the market gains momentum.

Phase 3: Late-stage euphoria

  • The market experiences strong gains and attracts widespread media attention.
  • Investor optimism reaches its peak and speculative behavior may increase.
  • Valuations can become stretched and excessive exuberance might lead to overvaluation.

Phase 4: Market top & transition

  • The market reaches a peak, often marked by a period of high volatility and increased trading volumes.
  • Some investors start taking profits, leading to a moderation in price gains.
  • Economic indicators may start showing signs of slowing growth.

Phase 5: Bear market or correction phase

  • The market experiences a significant decline, usually around 20% or more from its peak.
  • Investor sentiment turns negative as economic concerns and market volatility increase.


A breakdown of a bull vs bear market

While a steadfast approach is often best, you may consider different investments better for bull vs. bear markets.

Dive deeper

What are the benefits and risks of investing in a bull market?

Opportunity abounds in a bull market and many investors can easily get caught up in the frenzy. Be sure to keep the potential risks in mind so you can make informed investment decisions.

Benefits of investing during a bull market

  • Profit potential: Bull markets are characterized by rising asset prices, which can lead to significant gains for investors. This presents opportunities to grow wealth and achieve financial goals.
  • Increased portfolio value: As asset prices increase, the value of investment portfolios generally rises. This can boost overall portfolio performance and net worth.
  • Wealth effect: Rising portfolio values can lead to a "wealth effect"—consumers feel more financially secure and are more likely to spend, further contributing to economic growth.

Risks of investing during a bull market

  • Overvaluation: During bull markets, asset prices can become overvalued due to excessive optimism and speculation. This can lead to a correction or market downturn, when prices return to more reasonable levels, which can lead to investors to experience significant losses.
  • Market volatility: While bull markets generally trend upward, they're not immune to short-term volatility. Prices can experience sharp fluctuations, causing short-term losses and potentially affecting investor sentiment.
  • Complacency: Prolonged periods of positive returns might lead to investor complacency and a lack of preparedness for potential market reversals.
  • Pack mentality: Investors may be influenced by the behavior of others. This can result in exaggerated market risks driven by emotional or overconfident decisions.

6 tips for investing during a bull market

Investing during a bull market requires careful consideration and sticking to certain best practices to capitalize on opportunity while managing risk. In that way, it's not so different from investing during a recession or a bear market for investors with long-term goals. Consider these tactics for a balanced approach:

1. Stick to your investment strategy

Avoid making impulsive or emotional decisions based on short-term market movements. Don't chase trends or succumb to FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) as prices rise. Keep your long-term goals top of mind.

2. Understand your risk tolerance

Assess your risk tolerance and invest accordingly. Make sure your portfolio aligns with your comfort level for market volatility.

3. Diversify your portfolio

Maintain a well-diversified portfolio across different asset classes, sectors and geographic regions. Diversification helps reduce risk by spreading exposure and avoiding over-concentration in specific areas.

4. Rebalance your portfolio regularly

Periodically review and rebalance your portfolio to ensure it aligns with your target asset allocation. Rebalancing prevents your portfolio from becoming skewed due to market movements.

5. Avoid timing the market

Trying to predict market tops or bottoms often leads to poor investment outcomes. Stay invested and avoid market-timing strategies that can result in missed opportunities.

6. Consider dollar-cost averaging

This means investing a fixed amount on a regular basis, no matter the share price. Dollar-cost averaging lets you gradually invest over time, reducing the impact of market volatility.

Should you invest during a bull market?

While bull markets can offer many opportunities for gains, they're not a sure thing. The market can behave erratically and unexpectedly. Investors should focus on their individual financial goals and risk tolerance as they maintain a well-thought-out investment strategy, no matter the market conditions.

Regularly review your financial goals and adjust your investment strategy as needed. A local Thrivent financial advisor can help ensure your investments align with your changing life circumstances and long-term objectives.

Investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal. The product prospectus, portfolios' prospectuses and summary prospectuses contain more complete information on investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses along with other information, which investors should read carefully and consider before investing. Available at

While diversification can help reduce market risk, it does not eliminate it. Diversification does not assure a profit or protect against loss in a declining market.

Dollar cost averaging does not ensure a profit, nor does it protect against losses in a declining market. Because dollar cost averaging involves continuous investing, investors should consider their long-term ability to continue to make purchases through periods of low price levels and varying economic periods.