Historically the bull-bear cycle lasts about 4 years, with the bull market lasting for about 3 years while the Bear portion lasts for nearly 1 year. Stocks have trended higher throughout the stock market’s history so the odds are with you over time if you trade long as opposed to short selling. These statistics favor being long most of the time and sitting out some market periods that are not the ideal conditions for being long. Those less than ideal conditions also provide another opportunity besides being in cash to get short the market and try to profit from falling stock prices. Selling short in a bear market can be very profitable but it is a much tougher road than being long a bull market. Tonight we’ll discuss why that is.
Many novice traders and even more experienced traders have trouble surviving bear markets. Most of the time, it is because they have a false sense of security as they simply believe that profits will continue even in a major decline as long as they just flip their long strategies into reverse. It’s not that easy folks. Bear markets are much tougher to trade through than bull markets. This is due to the emotional roller coaster of fear and greed that routinely accelerates when stocks are in downtrends. Trend-following tactics are more difficult in downtrends simply because of the sudden bear market rallies that can be quite violent at times. These spikes will often create short squeezes that will induce heavy losses for those who take new short positions at the wrong time.
Bear markets make it much harder to turn short-term profits than typical bull markets. We will actively short stocks in bear markets but understand that during these periods, it is more difficult to turn consistent profits so it is not our desired way to trade. We think it is much more important to prepare for the bear market and the ensuing bull phase that follows so we can survive and profit while waiting for better conditions. Please don’t underestimate the importance of preparing to survive the next bear market so that you are ready for the next bull market.
One reason bear markets are harder to trade is because volume drops sharply through most phases of a broad bear market recession. This induces liquidity issues and dangerous trading conditions. Spreads will widen and slippage will increase for both the entries and exits. Short sale opportunities will vanish as inventories for stocks to borrow dry up at many brokerage firms. The best stocks to short will not have any shares available to borrow. This will be particularly frustrating as the stock you wanted to short continues to fall in a downward spiral and you can’t get in position to profit from it. Volume dries up as fund managers increase cash allocations to satisfy redemption requests and will not put new money to work from any inflows of cash due to fear of stocks dropping further. And many novice traders close up shop due to a lack of interest in the markets during these bear market periods.
Another reason why trading during bear markets can be very difficult is because during these times, actual price declines often take up only a small percentage of the time that the downtrend conditions exist. Just like individual stocks, the indices fall faster than they rise and the selling panic periods tend to be sharp and end quickly. The rest of the time the market meanders back and forth on low volume while trying to heal. Also, the typical bear market doesn’t end in the high volume capitulation that most people believe will happen. These capitulation selloffs do happen in bull market corrections but rarely end bear markets. Instead, bear markets end slowly as value investors start to accumulated positions while a market bottom forms. Most other participants will have little interest in stocks because the long basing period doesn’t excite them into entering the market again.
Our strategy for trading a bear market will be one of mostly cash with a combination of short selling and taking some long positions during countertrend rallies. We will act defensively through cyclical bear market conditions unless the intraday charts signal opportunities. Rallies and sell offs do offer excellent short-term setups for trading profits. One thing that we will have to do is tighten our holding time because the market environment will change drastically. We will try to anticipate where short covering rallies will take place and try to get long just before the short squeezes erupt. We will use the short seller’s panic to turn a profit, and then attempt to find resistance levels where natural reversals may take place. At this time, we can flip back to the short side for resumption of the downtrend.
As a bear market evolves, follow the daily charts for key turning points and act defensively at all times. Wait for favorable risk/reward opportunities and avoid being whipsawed by the frequent swings of investor/trader’s hopes and fears. All the while we are on defense, we will be looking for accumulation and renewed interest while the market is in the long healing process of forming a base. These basing periods offer excellent long-term potential for those with precise market timing. But remember, entry at these times will require execution against market sentiment. In other words, you will be buying when nobody else wants anything to do with stocks. That is always tough to do but the potential reward if you time it right can be astronomical.
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This article is courtesy of David Colletti, a ten year veteran stock trader and founder of StockTradershq.com. Our staff of professional technical traders analyze 1,000’s of potential stocks every day to provide you with a list of stock recommendations nightly with the greatest potential for explosive gains. These stock picks are traded with our real-time portfolio. Email alerts are sent to members for every entry and exit. Our subscription service provides all the resources, stock picks and tools an investor needs to make very profitable, consistent trades while maximizing gains and minimizing losses. StockTradersHQ.com offers a 21 day free trial with full member access.