Secular bull markets are great parties. Investors arrive from secular bears really wanting to take the edge off. As the bull proceeds, above-average returns become intoxicating. By the time it is over, the past decade or two has delivered bountiful returns.
In contrast, secular bears seem like hangovers. They are awakenings that strip away the intoxication, leaving a sobering need for an understanding of what has happened.
Conventional wisdom explains these periods as irrational or coincidental periods. In reality, secular bulls and bears are periods driven by longer-term trends in the inflation rate. A trend away from low inflation, whether to high inflation or deflation, drives the value of the market lower. That leaves investors with below-average returns. The return trip — when the inflation rate trends toward low inflation — drives the value of the market higher. That provides investors with above-average returns.