The longest-running bull market in history celebrated its 10-year anniversary on Sat., March 9, 2019. It all started from the post-crisis low of March 9, 2009. The S&P 500's (SPX) closing price on that fateful day in early 2009 was precisely 676.53. As of the market close on Wed., Oct. 9, 2019, the S&P 500 settled at 2,919.40. That represents around a 330% rise in a 10-year period. Not bad for a large-cap stock index.

Key Takeaways

  • The current bull market that started in March 2009 is the longest bull market in history. 
  • It’s topped the bull market of the 1990s that lasted 113 months.
  • However, the current bull market, which has seen the S&P 500 rise 330% in its 10+ years, is still second to the 90s bull run, which returned 417%.

The chart below displays some of the most salient market, economic, and political events that have helped to move the S&P 500 in one direction or another during this remarkable decade-long run.

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2009 Bull Market vs. History

The 2009-2019 bull run topped the nearly 10-year bull run of the 1990s. The bull run that started in Oct. 1990 lasted 113 months, while the 2009 bull run is going on 127 months. Only one other bull market has lasted longer than seven years, and it was the post-World War II run that started in 1949. 

In terms of returns, the 2009 bull market has the longest streak but it remains in second in terms of the best return. The 2009 bull market has generated a 330% return since the March 2009 low. The bull market of the 1990s saw the S&P 500 post a 417% return over its nearly nine and a half years. 

Meanwhile, the bull market following the Great Depression is close behind our current bull market. The Great Depression bull market started in June 1932, lasting 57 months, with the S&P 500 posting a 325% gain over that time. 

Major Moves of This Bull Market 

Some of the biggest and scariest drops during this recent bull market have been attributed simply to surging investor fear. This includes the 2011 anxieties over the spread of the European sovereign debt crisis. It also includes the most recent market plummet in the fourth quarter of 2018. Much of this massive drop was caused by fears of a global economic slowdown, a U.S.-China trade war, and rising U.S. interest rates.

Other market drops were triggered by freakish circumstances, including the 2010 'flash crash' and the 'Volmageddon' volatility eruption in early 2018. Also of note on this chart, the UK's Brexit referendum in mid-2016 (in which a majority of the UK public voted to leave the EU) registered only as a relatively limited and short-lived blip in the U.S. markets. Finally, when the Federal Reserve began to raise interest rates in earnest around the end of 2016 into 2017, the stock market took it in stride and continued to rise sharply.

What's Next for the Bull Market

The big question now, of course, is whether this 10-year rally will continue. Bull markets end with recessions, and while we've seen many bumps on the road to where we are now, the stock market has managed to recover (at least eventually) each and every time. There will always be serious risk factors and fears that pervade markets.

Late in 2018 was a rather severe example of this. But we don't believe this bull market, though it's been exceptionally long, has run its course just yet. Many economists still see growth in the economy and aren’t expecting a recession anytime soon. Unemployment continues to fall and the recent corporate tax rate cuts can help keep spending elevated.