The origins of the phrase Bulls and Bears – heated debateMake Text Bigger
The people on the opposite side of the debate consider me to be a property Bull and themselves to be Bears. They do not invest into property. One went under the handle “Wisebear”.
Their advice to me was to sell 90% of my portfolio, pay off my remaining mortgages and hold my assets in cash and gold. Their logic for this is that the UK is heading for the most devastating downward spiral in history and will suffer the same fate as Iceland – bankruptcy. They presented all sorts of graphs, charts and explainations for this.
I really couldn’t understand why they came onto a property forum to do this but that’s perhaps a topic for another day.
Obviously I disagreed with the majority of their point of view, as did most of the forum members and for a while the debate became quite heated and on occasions slightly abusive. All good fun! The so called Bears held their ground quite well in fairness. If is was their intention to start the debate to wind up property investors they certainly achieved their goal. Well they did with me anyway! It is a property forum after all so what would they expect?
The property investors were generally very accommodating and interested, at least in hearing the so called Bears opinions to start off with. However, the so called Bears eventually became quite abusive and arrogant. It’s was a bit like debating with those crazies who stand on street corners with sandwich boards evangelising that “the end of the world is nigh.” Reasoning with them became impossible and they got more and more arrogant and abusive which was a real shame.
The debate raised the question from another member of the forum; “where did the phrase Bulls and Bears come from?”
I researched the subject and came up with the following:-
Long ago, “bear skin jobbers” were known for selling bear skins that they did not own; i.e., the bears had not yet been caught. This was the original source of the term “bear.” This term eventually was used to describe short sellers, speculators who sold shares that they did not own, bought after a price drop, and then delivered the shares.
Because bull and bear baiting were once popular sports, “bulls” was understood as the opposite of “bears.” i.e., the bulls were those people who bought in the expectation that a stock price would rise, not fall.
In addition, the cartoonist Thomas Nast played a role in popularizing the symbols ‘Bull’ and ‘Bear’.
Finally, Don Luskin wrote a nice history of these terms for TheStreet.com on 15 May 2001.
The guy who raised the question about the origins of the phrases Bull and Bear then made the following comment. “I was just curious as to why they used bulls and bears as both are known to be brave animals, would have thought they would have used a timid animal to describe bears and the opposite for bulls.” This was obviously a question that arose off the back of the debate itself.
This made me realise that the people that I’d been debating with were not Bear market traders at all. If anything they are bullish about gold and generally pessimists. My response was:-
“Shorting the market has just as many if not more risks as an investment as hoping for the market to rise. Both animals are brave, they just have completely different characteristics. Going by the definitions provided above the so called Bears involved in this debate are not actually Bears at all. From what they said in various threads about their own investments they are Bulls when it comes to Gold but pessimists by nature. They don’t appear to have the confidence to invest into inverse investment instruments themselves and therefore have no right to refer to themselves as Bears IMHO.”
The Property Investors generally agreed that “ArrogantPessimist” might have been a better handle to hide behind for the self styled WiseBear.”
Personally, I have the utmost admiration for both bull and bear market traders but I don’t like to use either label to describe my property investment strategy. My passion is for property and I don’t profess to have any significant knowledge of macro economics or the share markets. They are far too complicated for me.
Do you consider yourself to be a Bull, a Bear or something else?
Please explain why.
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