a bear market is a financial market with declining asset prices fueled by investors' pessimism, lack of confidence and negative expectations. while bear markets are partly based on actual investment performance, they are also partly based on investor psychology. the bear market may get its name from the way a bear swipes its paws downward at its victims. when investors are pessimistic about investment performance, they are called bearish. the term bear market can be applied to a market as a whole such as the overall stock market or to a specific security such as apple's shares or to a particular commodity such as gold. a bear market is a long-term trend lasting months or years and characterized by stock market declines of at least 20%. a country's overall economic performance will be weak and unemployment will be high. in a bear market, investors sell off stock. demand is less than supply, which drives share prices down. people also have less money to spend in a bear market, which lowers companies' profitability and further drives down share prices. bonds, utilities and blue chip stocks are good choices for investors during bear markets because of their stability and their interest and dividend payments. the united states has experienced 16 bear markets since 1929. bear markets last for different lengths of time and experience losses at different paces. the longest bear market period lasted from march 1937 through april 1942 with a 52.2% loss in stock prices over 61 months. the biggest loss, 89.2%, occured during the early part of the great depression from september 1929 to july 1932. the shortest bear market began in august 1987 with black monday and lasted two months, losing 34.1%. the bear market that followed the housing bubble burst which lasted from october 2007 through march 2009 saw a 53.8% loss over 17 months.