How to Know If the Stock Market Will Go Up or Down

The closer you get to retirement, the more important it becomes to avoid nasty, major stock market moves down, and capture those lucrative stock market moves up.

This fuels the drive for investors to know if the stock market will go up or down over the next few years with a higher degree of likelihood. Stock market expert Bob Farrell gave 10 timeless rules that help predict if the stock market will go up or down; the factors include mean reversion, market excesses, public buying and selling activity, market direction, investor emotions, market depth, bear market stages, and agreement among experts.

It can be a big mistake to focus only on what the stock market has done recently, yet this is a trap that snares many investors.

washington dollar | how to know if the stock market will go up or down Farrell’s classic and timeless advice provides wisdom all stock market investors can use to stay grounded and keep market cycles in perspective.

In this post, I’ll address the revealing clues the stock market provides, assembled by this iconic stock analyst, to help manage stock market risk with a higher level of probability.

Note that for younger, long term investors who have decades to allow their stock investments to compound and grow slowly through stock market gyrations, forecasting if stocks are more likely to move up or down over the next few years is much less of an issue than it is for older investors preparing for retirement.

This is due to a usually overlooked sequence of returns risk that can destroy an otherwise solid retirement plan for older investors.

There’s also the fact that no one can argue against improving stock market gains while minimizing losses, making these 10 insightful rules valuable for all investors at any age.

Come On, Can You Really Know If the Stock Market Will Go Up or Down?

Amidst the talk that no one knows for sure where the market is headed, the smart money is measuring probability by observing the many clues for whether the stock market is more likely to go up or down at any given point in time.

Remember, with investing, we only have probabilities. That is all Warren Buffett has, that is all financial advisors have, and that is all you and I have.

While probability is far from certainty, wise investors consider probability from available information and observation.

First, reliable fundamental data on PE ratios, yield curve inversion, and various economic activities all provide valuable tools for predicting stock market direction.

Second, technical analysis provides another slew of revealing data for forecasting whether the stock market will go up or down.

In addition to fundamental and technical analysis, there’s plain ole common sense; this is where Bob Farrell’s rules enter the picture. We can all relate to these basic rules to predict if the stock market will go up or down in the near term, even though we may choose not to at times.

Amidst the non-stop promotions for passive investing in the $1.5 trillion dollar financial services industry, the smart money is estimating probabilities for market direction, as well as analyzing what goes up when stocks go down. 

So, let’s make the most of this free and revealing information in guiding us, too, toward whether the stock market will go up or down in the near term to aid us in building and preserving our own wealth.


Bob Farrell’s 10 Market Rules to Remember

Bob Farrell’s 10 Market rules can significantly help every investor avoid the ongoing hype and herd mentality about stock investing to gain a much better understanding of the overall stock market and whether it is more probable to go up or down over the next few years.

These rules provide an insightful big picture perspective that can get lost in tracking portfolio performance.

It pays to step away from your own investments and look at the big picture. Big pictures reveal a lot that can help keep you on track to reach your retirement goals with a smile on your face. Thanks to sequence of returns risk, bull and bear markets play a huge role in determining how much longer until you can retire.  

Below are Bob Farrell’s 10 Market Rules to Remember.

1. Markets Tend to Return to The Mean Over Time

Most stock investors know that there is an average amount the stock market moves up over time; this average is the reason people invest in the stock market in the first place. They plan to get a certain return based on what stocks have done in the past.

Over very long time frames, this annualized stock market return is 10%. (Remember, this often used return number includes dividends reinvested and compounded, and retirees don’t reinvest dividends if they are living off investments.)

A mean is a type of average. While a 10% average annual return sounds great, the occasional wild swings down that contribute to that average aren’t too great.

In fact, if those wild swings down hit in the few years before or after retirement sequence of returns risk can destroy an otherwise good retirement plan. A perfect example is the stock market crash in October 2007 through March 2009 when the S&P 500 dropped about 54%.

Investor emotions naturally come into play when you think about making 10% a year in the stock market vs seeing your stock portfolio decline by 54%, but it also helps to know that stock prices change to mean back toward the average.

Returning to this average, or mean, is called mean reversion, which was first observed by theory statistician Francis Galton. Mean reversion explains the way normal events follow extreme events. (1.)

During the pain of bear markets, it’s important to remember that stocks will eventually revert to the average by going back up over that average. Likewise, during the plentiful times when stock market values have swung up higher than the average valuation, it’s smart to remember that they’ll need to swing way back down under the average to get back to the usual average.

Not only can this mean reversion awareness ease investor emotions from the pain of net worth declines that occur during bear markets, but you can also tweak your investing decisions with this information to help build wealth by buying assets low, and selling higher, based on long term trends. This is logical and may sound overly simplistic, yet most investors don’t do it.

What keeps individual investors from factoring this reality into their stock market investing decisions? Needing to follow the herd mentality, lack of a plan, recency bias, emotional investing, and lack of knowledge about stock market cycles all contribute to losing money in stocks as I know all too well.

Knowing that markets revert to the mean helps you know if the stock market is more likely to go up or down over the next few years.

Looking to see how far the market has swung away from the mean, and in which direction, provides valuable and unbiased insights as outlined more in my post How to Not Outlive Your Money.

2. Excesses in One Direction Will Lead to An Opposite Excess in The Other Direction

After bear markets, many investors swear that they’ll never buy stocks again. Everything in the news is about the horrible losses that investors have had which fuels investor emotions even more. At this point, people HATE stocks to an excessive level even though they can be bought very cheaply.

Near the end of bull markets, however, everyone LOVES stocks. It feels like the great stock market performance will go on forever even though stocks are overpriced based on history and no longer connected to company earnings.

This excessive optimism is called “Irrational Exuberance” and it drives stocks to levels that are no longer supported by the true valuations of the companies in the stock market.

Below are some examples of stock market excesses that you may well remember, as I do.

Real estate valuations in 2006 were the result clearly excessive lending. Real estate and the financial firms lending money for real estate had to swing in the opposite direction to return to “normal” pricing following the excesses.

The tech boom in 2000 was also excessive. The stock index that held the cutting edge technology companies was the Nasdaq. It increased a whopping 85.59% in 1999! This was clearly excessive.

Then, the Nasdaq declined over 39% in 2000, over 21 in 2001, and over 31% in 2002. Ouch!

But wait: These downswings were obviously excessive, so in 2003 the Nasdaq swung back up just over 50%! (2.)

These are both great examples of exactly what Bob Farrell has explained so articulately. We can see how logical the return to normal pricing is after these excessive periods. 

Of course, hindsight is 20 20, but wild excesses such as these make it clear that the stock market (as well as real estate and other asset classes) will need to go up or down to shake out the excesses.

Do these wild swings matter for stock market investors? Only you can decide your own acceptable risk tolerance level and invest within it. (If you work with a financial advisor, this can be a great conversion to have with him.)

Wealth Building Tip – Insightful investors with a high cash portfolio allocation can buy wealth building assets at bargain prices after the excessive swings downward. 

3. There Are No New Eras — Excesses Are Never Permanent.

This investing rule is tied to the popular phrase that fuels many excessive valuations: “This time is different.”

Heading into 2000 in the midst of the tech bubble, everyone thought that overall business fundamentals were, in fact, different, because we would all be using new technology that would change the world forever.

As it turns out, we are, but even technology company valuations are affected by supply and demand, earnings, corporate leadership, and the economy.

There are no new eras. While the next bull or bear market may be a little different, stocks return to valuations that make sense in relation to their financials, and to historical norms.

4. Exponential Rapidly Rising or Falling Markets Usually Go Further Than You Think, But They Do Not Correct by Going Sideways

The way I state this stock market rule is that trends last longer than you think. I have learned this truth time and time again during trends that are both up, and down.

All along bear market declines stock analysts are interviewed in the media explaining how the market will stop dropping soon; yet the downward trend continues longer than expected.

And all along the way up, the stock market is climbing a wall of worry, another popular saying; then the stock market goes higher and longer than anyone thinks it will.

While I have found this rule to be true more often than not, there are exceptions to this stock market rule.

The first was the fast bear market that began in October 1987 with the sudden one day steep drop. That bear market ended only three months later.

Another breaking of this rule during my investing years was the bull market between 2003 and 2007.

The average bull market lasts 9.1 years, so a bull market that lasted only a little over 5 years in the mid 2000’s seemed too short following the nasty 2001-2003 bear. (3)

Then in March of 2020, the fast bear market was over before it ever settled in.

The second part of this stock market rule is that markets don’t correct by going sideways. This implies that markets must go up or down, significantly, to return to the norm, or the mean.


5. The Public Buys the Most at The Top and The Least at The Bottom

Yes, that’s us – the individual investors that Bob Farrell is referencing here.

It sounds so easy to buy stocks at low prices and sell them when they are overvalued, especially given the obvious stock market rules you see here from Bob Farrell. This is how wealth is made easily for those with the insight, discipline, and knowledge to pull it off. 

Nevertheless, research repeatedly shows that individual investors are the last to buy into the stock market before it goes down.

Wealth Building Tip – Be knowledgable and Zen-like with your investing so decisions are guided by logic instead of the common investor emotions of fear and greed.


6. Fear and Greed Are Stronger Than Long-Term Resolve

Most people invest based on deep rooted beliefs about money instead of the logic you see in Bob Farrell’s 10 Stock Market Rules or the reliable fundamental and technical data referenced previously. These money beliefs are usually related to childhood or previous mistakes.

Those invalid beliefs trigger emotional investing instead of logical investing. Yet, it’s hard to not be fearful about running out of money when you subconsciously operate on fear from past mistakes or depression era parents or grandparents.

Plus, as humans, fear is hard wired into our brains from the cave dwelling days; we had to be fearful just to survive. Now, most of us don’t have to be fearful to survive, so we subconsciously invent things to be fearful about to fuel that drive. Running out of money is an excellent target.

On the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, it can be hard NOT to get greedy when you see that everyone you know has built wealth from the latest stock bull market. FOMO (fear of missing out) leads investors to finally get into stock markets near the top of market cycles where the fear of missing out overcomes logical investing.

These emotional investing patterns can be overcome by disempowering those limiting beliefs with journaling, reflecting, or financial coaching.

Investing from an overall wealth plan that defines investment goals and risk tolerance, as well as increasing investment knowledge can also resolve this mindset problem. Clarity and knowledge fuel better, more logical investing decisions and actions.

Wealth Building Tip – Step back and ask yourself if you are making investment decisions based on data, math, and logic or on emotions.

7. Markets Are Strongest When They Are Broad and Weakest When They Narrow to a Handful of Blue-Chip Names

To observe this rule in action, think of FANG stocks, the darlings of the bull market that began in 2009. Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and Google fueled this bull market.

These few companies accounted for a very disproportionate share of the overall stock market value in the later stages of this bull market.

The speculation and over exuberance around these companies can last longer than anyone expects as explained in rule 4 above, but eventually, they lose steam. 

Weak markets that are concentrated on a few key stocks are less healthy and are more likely to go down; broad markets are stronger and are thus more likely to continue to increase longer term.

This rule can help investors avoid losing money in the stock market by recognizing when the market is driven by a narrow group of stocks set to crash. 

8. Bear Markets Have Three Stages — Sharp Down, Reflexive Rebound, and A Drawn-Out Fundamental Downtrend

This stock investing rule will be important to remember during the worst of bear markets. 

Markets tend to fall hard and fast once the institutions begin selling; a quick glance at a stock chart reveals institutional selling volume.

Then the markets head back up several times retesting prior levels. These movements can also be seen on stock charts easily.

During this time, there are little up trends inside of the large overall move down. These little up trends can give investors a good opportunity to sell stocks higher than the recent previous lows.

Don’t get too caught up in the small trends within the overall larger moves up or down, however, since these are tricky for even the most experienced investors. Instead, focus on the big picture asking if stocks are overvalued, fairly valued, or undervalued. This observation can help reduce risk in stocks from bear markets. 

Data is easy to get to provide the answer to this question and the bear market chart below is also very revealing for a good visual of the phases of prior stock bear markets. 

how to know if the stock market will go up or down Image Source –

In the last stage that Bob Farrell refers to here, the prices drop to the point that the numbers make sense to draw buyers back into the markets again. This stage is based more on fundamental analysis. Again, you can see the logic here as you can in all of Bob Farrell’s stock market rules.

Wealth Building Tip – There are 2 types of analysis, fundamental and technical for evaluating investments. Technical analysis is based on looking at charts and applying technical indicators. Fundamental analysis, on the other hand, is based on good old fashioned financials related to profits and growth.

9. When All the Experts and Forecasts Agree — Something Else Is Going to Happen

In March of 1998 my mother and I got to take a private tour on the floor of the NYSE (New York Stock Exchange) when we were in NY celebrating her 73rd birthday. We dined atop the World Trade Center afterward, and my heart swells as I type this, over both the loss of my mother and the many lives lost on September 11, 2001.

The NYSE was giving out Dow 10,000 hats anticipating that the Dow would pass 10,000 for the first time ever that very day. The floor of the exchange was wild, and the excitement was contagious. It was a wonderful experience arranged by my husband, Larry Gaines, who now provides option trading education but knew the floor brokers from his trading career.  

The seasoned broker who took us around the NYSE floor said to us “If you have money in the stock market, take your profits now. This won’t last much longer.”

The market continued its’ uphill climb for 2 more years as wealth was made by stock investors willing to take the risk. Trends last longer than you think they will, as addressed previously.

This also demonstrates rule 9, however, that when the experts agree that one thing will happen, something different is going to happen.

In the bull market which began in 2009, there were a lot of financial experts saying the market fundamentals were approaching a bear market in early 2013, 2016, 2017, and beyond. The market kept climbing, however, despite a couple of shart bear markets on it’s ascension.

Many financial advisors are discouraged from focusing on stock market crashes. I admire the financial advisors who confidently discuss and prepare for bear markets and overall market valuations.

The reality is that bear markets are as sure as death and taxes for stock market investors. Why gloss them over instead of accepting them as a reality, and preparing for bear markets by estimating how much stock market risk you have. Smart investors even take advantage of bear markets. 

Here’s what Bob Farrell is saying: When all the experts predict the market will go up, the probability is higher that it will go down. When the experts all agree the markets will go down, it’s more likely the market will go up.

As individual investors, this supports that it can be very hard to know who to listen to about investing. Knowing this rule, however, can help keep your wealth safe by knowing that you can’t listen to everyone, but you can, instead, look at the facts and data. 

Here’s my video for How to Know if the Stock Market Will Go Up or Down with the 10 rules addressed in this post.



10. Bull Markets Are More Fun Than Bear Markets

This is the attitude that prevails in the media, and hence, the general public during bull and bear markets. However, for tactical investors who are prepared for the bear market, with access to extra funds or keep an extra portfolio cash allocation ready to be invested at cheaper valuations, bear markets can be an opportunity to build wealth rather quickly. Many tactical investors rotate out of bonds and into stocks during late stage bear markets to make money from lower stock prices.   

Buying assets cheap can be quite fun and lucrative for investors who know how to make money when stocks drop.

Read my related post How to Build Wealth where I write about the cheap asset method of wealth building.

Of course, for investors who are not invested in bull markets, the frustration of not being in the market can be no fun at all. So, bull markets are fun for those who have created wealth from them but the same can be said for bear markets. Ideally, smart investors will consider market valuations before investing in anything, allowing them to capitalize on both bull and bear markets.

How to Know If the Stock Market Will Move Up or Down Summary

You can see that Bob Farrell’s 10 Market Rules to Remember are all beautifully intertwined into a wealth of investing wisdom.

One rule supports the other rules in a way that provides substance and truth. Incorporating these 10 often-overlooked realities into your investing can help you know if the stocks are more likely to go up or down over the next year or two with a higher level of probability. Remember, using probability to your advantage can guide you to build wealth at any age.

The best place to start is with my Ultimate Wealth Plan. You can get it here now.

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Related posts I think you’ll enjoy:

What Percentage of Cash Should Be in My Portfolio? where I explain asset allocation investing vs tactical investing

How to Build Wealth where I write about buying undervalued income generating assets 

How Will Stock a Market Crash Affect Me? where I step you through estimating your stock market risk 

Are Stocks Safe for Retirement? with eight important stock market risk factors

Investment Strategies Used for High Net Worth Clients with 5 risk management strategies a top financial advisor uses for his clients


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  3. First Trust Portfolios LP
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