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NEW YORK: Wall Street is back in the claws of a bear market as worries about inflation and higher interest rates overwhelm investors.
The Federal Reserve (Fed) has signalled it will aggressively raise interest rates to try to control inflation, which is the highest in decades.
Throw in the war in Ukraine and a slowdown in China’s economy, and investors have been forced to reconsider what they’re willing to pay for a wide range of stocks, from high-flying tech companies to traditional automakers.
Big swings have become commonplace and Monday was no exception.
The last bear market happened just two years ago, but this is still a first for those investors that got their start trading on their phones during the pandemic.
Thanks in large part to extraordinary actions by the Fed, stocks have for years seemed to go largely in only one direction: up.
But the “buy the dip” rallying cry popular after every market slide has grown more fainter – a recent rebound in stock prices was wiped out by a furious bout of selling over the past four days.
Here are some common questions asked about bear markets
Why is it called bear market?
A bear market is a term used by Wall Street when an index like the S&P 500, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, or even an individual stock, has fallen 20% or more from a recent high for a sustained period of time.
Why use a bear to represent a market slump? Bears hibernate, so bears represent a market that’s retreating, said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA.
In contrast, Wall Street’s nickname for a surging stock market is a bull market, because bulls charge, Stovall said.
The S&P 500, Wall Street’s main barometer of health, slid 3.9% Monday to 3,749. That’s nearly 22% below the high set on Jan 3.
The Nasdaq is already in a bear market, down 32.7% from its peak of 16,057.44 on Nov 19.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average is more than 17% below its most-recent peak.
The most recent bear market for the S&P 500 ran from Feb 19, 2020 through March 23, 2020.
The index fell 34% in that one-month period. It’s the shortest bear market ever.
What’s bothering investors?
Market enemy No. 1 is interest rates, which are rising quickly as a result of the high inflation battering the economy.
Low rates act like steroids for stocks and other investments, and Wall Street is now going through withdrawal.
The Fed has made an aggressive pivot away from propping up financial markets and the economy with record-low rates and is focused on fighting inflation.
The central bank has already raised its key short-term interest rate from its record low near zero, which had encouraged investors to move their money into riskier assets like stocks or cryptocurrencies to get better returns.
Last month, the Fed signalled additional rate increases of double the usual amount are likely in upcoming months.