1. The Great Depression bear market was the worst in U.S. history. The Dow fell 90% in less than four years, peaking at 381.17 on Sept. 3, 1929, and falling to 41.22 by July 8, 1932. The major event was the 1929 stock market crash, which followed an asset bubble caused by a financial invention called buying “on margin.” This allowed people to borrow money from their broker and only put down 10% to 20% of the stock value. When a scandal rocked the British stock market, investors lost confidence in the U.S. market, triggering the crash.
  2. The second-worst, by percentage, was the 2008 bear market. It began on Oct. 9, 2007, when the Dow closed at 14,164.43. It fell 53.4% to close at 6,544.44 on March 6, 2009. It was caused by the 2008 stock market crash, the failure of Lehman Brothers, and the reluctance of Congress to restore confidence by passing a bailout. It didn’t end until the government launched the economic stimulus plan of 2009. The Dow didn’t regain its 2007 high until March 5, 2013, when it closed at 14,253.77.
  3. The third-worst, percentage-wise, was the 1973 bear market. On Jan. 11, 1973, the Dow closed at 1,051.70. It had fallen 45% by Dec. 4, 1974. President Richard Nixon helped create this recession by ending the gold standard. That caused inflation as the dollar rose.
  4. The 2000 bear market ended the greatest bull market in U.S. history. It began on January 14, 2000, when the Dow closed at 11,722.98. The benchmark fell 37.8% until it hit its bottom of 7,286.87 on Oct. 9, 2002. This bear market triggered the 2001 recession, and was compounded by the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which shut down stock exchanges and shocked the world.
  5. The 1970 bear market began on Dec. 31, 1968, when the Dow closed at 908.92. It had dropped 30% before bottoming out at 631.60 on May 26, 1970.