Even though no one really considered the rally from the November lows to the early January highs as a new bull market, based on the standard bull market definition of a 20% rally that was preceded by a 20% decline, it was one. Well, we don't have to worry about the bull market anymore since we've had another 20%+ decline since then. This puts us back into bear market territory. When we're in a full-fledged global market decline like the current one, the 20% bull and bear market definition is really just semantics. Even though we had a brief "bull" since the market peaked on October 9th, 2007, the S&P 500 is now down a depressing 54% from its highs. Michael Santoli puts the declines into context in his commentary in the most recent Barron's:
Some very long-term landmarks are in sight. Right below Dow 7000, not 2% down from here, is a point at which half of the entire rise from the 1932 Depression low to the ultimate October 2007 high will have gone away. That's explainable given the low-double-digit Dow of '32, but losing half of 75 years worth of upside in 16 months is . . . quite something.
That sounds bad, and it is, but you can pick any low from any start date in history and a 50% decline from an all-time high will mean at least half the gains have been erased. If you're down 50% from a high, you have erased half of the gains in the entire history of the Index. In this case, since 1884. Regardless of where you start, losing half of the market's gains makes you cringe (unless you have a lot of cash and you have never been invested in stocks.)