1982 to 1987: Reaganomics After Volcker tamed inflation, President Ronald Reagan cut taxes, sending the stock market soaring. The S&P 500 boomed, generating average annual returns of nearly 27% — the best since during the Great Depression.
And the unemployment rate broke below 6%, down from a peak of nearly 11%. But the bull market would end in an instant as the Dow crashed an astonishing 22.6% on October 19, 1987, a day now known as Black Monday.
Computerized trading, which was still relatively new, was partly to blame. The bear market was super short, lasting only three months. While the S&P 500 fell nearly 34% between late August and early December, it still finished the year in positive territory.
1987 to 1990: The Black Monday comeback
After Wall Street's darkest day proved to be just a blip for stocks, the S&P 500 advanced 65% from December 1987 to July 1990, marking the second shortest bull market in the modern era before another downturn struck. The United States entered a mild recession in July 1990 as oil prices more than doubled after Iraq invaded Kuwait.
Between July and October 1990, the S&P 500 fell 19.9%, making it a borderline bear market because it fell just shy of a 20% drop. In one of the most dramatic days in Wall Street history, stocks crashed more than 20% on October 19, 1987. But it was just a blip for the market.Maria Bastone/AFP/Getty Images
The end of the Cold War and the dawn of the Internet Age ushered in an era of enormous prosperity. The S&P 500 surged more than 400% over the decade, driven higher by robust economic growth and stable inflation. It remains the strongest bull market ever.
The United States experienced the longest period of uninterrupted economic growth in modern history. Investors, sensing the enormous potential of the internet, recklessly piled into dot-com stocks in what Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan dubbed "irrational exuberance.
Eventually, frothy share prices were no longer justified by underlying business fundamentals. Many of these companies, like Pets.com, went belly-up. The S&P 500 fell 49% between March 2000 and October 2002.Torsten Blackwood/AFP/Getty Images
The mid-2000s bull market planted the seeds for the meltdown that would arrive later in the decade. Aided by low interest rates from the Greenspan-led Federal Reserve, the period was marked by excessive leverage.
Subprime mortgages enabled more Americans to purchase homes often with no down payment and at short-term "teaser" rates. The real estate market surged and rising home values led Americans to spend aggressively.
Stocks rose 102% between October 2002 and 2007. But Wall Street made risky bets that eventually backfired.
When home prices starting falling, borrowers began defaulting en masse. Investment banks like Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, which held some of the risky subprime debt, suffered huge losses and collapsed.
The deepest financial crisis and recession since the Great Depression followed, with the S&P 500 falling nearly 57% between October 2007 and March 2009.Tim Boyle/Getty Images
No matter when it ends, the recovery from the Great Recession is already the longest bull market in American history. Spanning more than a decade, the market boom has been driven by a combination of slow-but-steady economic growth, record corporate profits and record low interest rates.
The bull market, after surviving several near-death experiences, has catapulted to quadruple its crisis low. The record-setting rally has been punctuated by the rise of the tech industry, with Apple, Amazon and Google joining Microsoft as America's most valuable companies. David McNew/Getty Images