A bear market is typically defined as a 20% drop from recent highs. The most common usage of the term is to refer to the S&P 500‘s performance, which is generally considered a benchmark indicator of the entire stock market.
However, the term bear market can be used to refer to any stock index, or to an individual stock that has fallen 20% or more from recent highs. For example, we could say that the Nasdaq Composite plunged into a bear market during the bursting of the dot-com bubble in 1999 and 2000. Or, let’s say that a particular company reports poor earnings and its stock drops by 30%. We could say that the stock’s price has fallen into bear market territory.
The terms bear market and stock market correction are often used interchangeably, but they refer to two different magnitudes of negative performance. A correction occurs when stocks fall by 10% or more from recent highs, and a correction can be upgraded to a bear market once the 20% threshold is met.