The big argument on twitter, among many, is focused on whether we are in a bull market or a bear market. Both sides are equally vociferous and committed to their position. What they don't realize is that they are both right in their own way. But understanding the difference in the way they are right is critical to successfully navigating the current market.
Marketwatch published the chart below showing the current
market uptrend compared to the last market uptrend. The similarity is
The 2009 to 2013 move up has displayed similar behavior to the 2002/3 to 2007
bear market rally (cyclical bull market), and based on the chart above you may
well conclude that it hasn't got much further to run.
But how can we determine whether 2009 to 2013 is a bear market rally or the
beginning of a new secular bull market?
Barry Ritholtz's blog discussed the top ten S&P 500 bull
markets of 20% or more, see table below. The current bull run comes in at number
6 and the table shows that it could continue on much further, based on past
However one thing that is not immediately obvious from the table above is
this; of the ten bull markets, six of these have been cyclical bull markets
within secular bear markets, only the first three have been during secular bull
markets. So the chances are that this is also a cyclical bull market within a
secular bear market.
But hold on, the bulls cry, "the markets are making new all-time highs,
that's bullish!" Well not necessarily. During the bear market of 1965 to 1982
the Dow made new all-time highs in 1972 and then promptly fell 45%. So new highs
are not necessarily an indication of a new bull market.
How do we know where we are in the current stock market cycle? Are we in the
midst of a new long term stock bull market or a market rally within an ongoing
These are the questions that I set out to answer when I started to study
historic stock market cycles. It comes as a surprise to most people to find out
that booms and busts occur surprisingly regularly and that there is a repeating
cycle in the stock markets.
My research has identified that a 17.6 year stock market exists within the
markets consisting of downtrends lasting 2.2 years and uptrends lasting 4.4
years (2 x 2.2 years), with a combined cycle length of 17.6 years. I have called
this cycle the Balenthiran Cycle and demonstrate how the intermediate turning
points match stock market behavior going back to the early 1900s and extrapolate
the cycle forwards to provide a market roadmap of the next secular bull market
to 2035 and subsequent secular bear market to 2053.
Using the Balenthiran Cycle I forecast that we are in a secular bear market
that will last from 2000 to 2018, and the current uptrend will end in 2013 and
that we will have a low at the end of 2013 (not lower than the 2009 low).
Following this low I forecast (using historic cycles) that we are likely to see
a bounce in the markets with higher lows in 2015 and 2018 before the new secular
bull market begins in 2018.
Bulls and bears can both therefore claim to be right, but it's only by taking
a historical viewpoint and looking at the bigger picture that investors can
ensure that they position themselves correctly for the future.