What Is the Psychology of a Market Cycle?

Jeremy BiberdorfBy: Jeremy Biberdorf

June 20, 2024June 20, 2024

The Psychology of a Market Cycle is based on the way that humans behave in large groups, in this case in the financial markets.

While there may be outliers, the majority of people act in a predictable way based on fundamental human emotions, which is the cause of market trends.

However, trading in the stock market based on market cycles is a contrarian trade.

That means that the trader is purposefully going against the prevailing market sentiment of the time with their investment decisions.

The key to successfully going against market sentiment is understanding the nuances of the Psychology of a Market Cycle and its effect on stock prices.

While all trading indicators can be helpful in this situation, indicators that offer a detailed and comprehensive analysis of support and resistance levels  are the most useful.

Key Takeaways

  • The Psychology of a Market Cycle is about understanding the behavior of humans in large groups, in this case their effect on price movements.
  • This understanding can be used to make contrarian trades that go against the prevailing investor sentiment in the market.


A Breakdown of the Psychology of a Market Cycle

The essence of a market cycle is the natural tendency for groups of people to move between periods of extreme emotional highs and extreme emotional lows.

This emotional cycle of investor sentiment will be reflected in the market, where people will bid up the market when they are optimistic and bid down the market when they are pessimistic.

  • When investors are optimistic, there will be a bull market or accumulation phase.
  • When investors are pessimistic, there will be a bear market or distribution phase.

Market cycles can have a range of emotional states, but there are 4 main emotional states that matter.


Hope occurs when people begin to get excited about the future.

The present is fine, but the key is that people expect the future to be better than the present.

Prices are rising, and people expect the prices to continue rising.

This is the accumulation phase.


Euphoria can be considered the extreme phase of hope.

All caution and risk aversion are discarded as the extended period of rising prices has people feeling excessively enthusiastic about the market.

Prices have been roaring higher day after day, and people only expect the pace of prices to increase.

This is the end of the accumulation phase.


Fear occurs when the situation starts to be consistently bad.

There have been numerous times where the market has bounced back from new lows, but this just leads to another set of lower lows.

Prices are steadily falling, and people are worried that they will never see the market turn upward again.

This is the distribution phase.


People have completely given up on the market and have no expectations that prices will rise from these lows.

People cut their losses and sell their investments to preserve their remaining wealth.

Prices are flat at an extreme low point.

This is the end of the distribution phase.

How to Use the Psychology of a Market Cycle

The key to successfully trading on a market cycle is to sell during the period of euphoria and buy during the period of capitulation.

The Psychology of a Market Cycle suggests that the price will never be higher than when everyone is euphoric, and the price will never be lower than when everyone has capitulated.

Therefore, the best strategy is to do the opposite of the majority during these extreme emotional phases.

However, the difficult aspect of this strategy is being able to tell the difference between emotional states.

Traders need to be able to differentiate between fear and capitulation and between hope and euphoria.

Selling Euphoria


Euphoria represents the absolute peak of the human emotional state and the top of the market.

When the market is at its absolute peak, it is time for a trader to sell all their investments and take a short position in the market.

Common signs of the euphoria top include:

  • Excessive risk-taking
  • High leverage.
  • High rates of market participation.
  • High rates of fraud and other financial crimes.

Buying Capitulation


Capitulation represents the absolute bottom of the human emotional state and the trough in the market.

When the market is at its absolute lowest point, it is time for a trader to buy investments and close any short positions in the market.

Common signs of the capitulation bottom include:

  • An economic downturn.
  • Low rates of market participation.

The Best Tools for Trading the Psychology of a Market Cycle

Understanding and tracking market fluctuations is a long-term, comprehensive process that relies on a massive range of both fundamental and technical analysis.

Only a top market research tool offers a platform where a trader can perform this kind of extensive analysis of the financial markets and economic indicators.

Our top recommendations for market research tools for retail traders are:


Seeking Apha

As nuanced as market cycle analysis can be, the actual trades themselves can be very simple.

Broad market trades usually involve ETFs and indices, all of which are available on even the simplest and most user-friendly trading platforms.

Our top recommendation for basic trading platforms for retail traders is:


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Jeremy Biberdorf
Jeremy Biberdorf

About the Author:

Jeremy Biberdorf is the founder of Modest Money. He's a father of 2 beautiful girls, a dog owner, a long-time online entrepreneur and an investing enthusiast.

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