Bull market; bear market

Posted by ESC on April 07, 2002

In Reply to: Bull market; bear market posted by Marian on April 07, 2002

: A bull market: prices are going up. A bear market: prices are falling. Anyone know the origin of these phrases?

BEAR/BULL MARKETS -- "Two terms often used for stock-market traders are 'bull' and 'bear.' A 'bull' is someone who buys securities or commodities in the expectation of a price rise, or someone whose actions make such a price rise happen. A 'bear' is the opposite - someone who sells securities or commodities in expectation of a price decline. By extension both terms are used as adjectives, so a 'bull' market is rising in value, while a 'bear' market is declining. The 'bear' came first. A proverb that has been in use at least since the seventeenth century points out that it is not wise 'to sell the bear's skin before one has caught the bear.' By the eighteenth century the term 'bear-skin' apparently from this proverb, was being used in the phrase 'to sell the bear-skin' or 'to buy the bear-skin.' The 'bear-skin' element was shortened to 'bear,' and 'bear' was then applied to stock that was being sold by a speculator.In 1720 England was rocked by a scandal known as the South Sea Bubble. This was a protracted scheme involving the South Sea Company.The term 'bear,' meaning the person who sells stock in expectation of a price decline, as well as the stock so sold, had been in use prior to the breaking of the South Sea Bubble. However, since this type of selling was used by many people involved in the scandal, the South Sea affair brought 'bear' into widespread use. At about the same time the other animal symbol made its appearance. The term 'bull' originally meant a speculative purchase in the expectation that stock prices would rise. Its earliest use was in 1714, and the word 'bull' seems to have been chosen as a fitting alter ego to 'bear.' Thus Alexander Pope wrote in 1720: 'Come fill the South Sea goblet full;/ The gods shall of our stock take care:/ Europa pleased accepts the full,/ And Jove with joy puts off the bear.' The animal imagery caught on and has stayed with us." "Merriam-Webster New Book of Word Histories: Fascinating Stories About Our Living, Growing Language" (Merriam-Webster, Springfield, Mass., 1991).