Stock Market Menagerie: Bulls vs. Bears, Unicorns & the Animals of Wall Street

November 29, 2019

Stock Market Menagerie: Bulls vs. Bears, Unicorns & the Animals of Wall StreetCollection of the Museum of American Finance

The Ticker Tape: TD Ameritrade

Someone turning on the financial news for the very first time might get the impression that Wall Street isn’t a market but rather an animal parade: bulls and bears, hawks and doves, dead cats and doomed sheep, and so on. Stock market animal references reach back to the early days of Wall Street. But what exactly does all the animal-based market slang mean?

Zoological-sounding stock market phrases abound in financial market coverage, in part reflecting our country’s agrarian roots. Wall Street slang also helps simplify complex industry ideas into a commonly understood vernacular. Still, investors shouldn’t just take these terms at face value. It’s important to define and understand bull markets, bear markets, and other Wall Street animals.

Here’s a brief primer on Wall Street animal slang.

Charging Up and Forward: Bulls and Bull Markets
Bulls are considered optimistic on stock prices or the overall market and therefore may be buying, or “going long.” Bull markets are typically defined as a period of sustained, fundamentally driven growth in share values, although it’s not always certain when a bull market began until years later (the ongoing bull market in U.S. stocks started in early 2009, based on benchmarks such as the S&P 500 Index).

Bull markets “are typically associated with a strengthening economy, an increased demand for securities, and widespread positive investor sentiment,” said Ryan Campbell, senior content producer at TD Ameritrade.

The origin of the term “bull” isn’t clear, although real bulls—adult male cattle—can have sharp, upward-pointing horns and can be aggressive, hard-charging, and powerful. The term “bull” was used in association with the markets as early as 1714, according to the Museum of American Finance.

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