The BUSINESS [Economic] CYCLE: What is it Really?

Of Bull and Bear Markets, too!

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By Dr. David Edward Marcinko MBA CMP®

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The business cycle is also known as the economic cycle and reflects the expansion or contraction in economic activity. Understanding the business cycle and the indicators used to determine its phases may influence investment or economic business decisions and financial or medical planning expectations. Although often depicted as the regular rising and falling of an episodic curve, the business cycle is very irregular in terms of amplitude and duration.

Moreover, many elements move together during the cycle and individual elements seldom carry enough momentum to cause the cycle to move. However, elements may have a domino effect on one another, and this is ultimately drives the cycle.  We can also have a large positive cycle, coincident with a smaller but still negative cycle, as seen in the current healthcare climate of today.


  1. First Phase: Trough to Recovery (production driven)

Scenario: A depressed GNP leads to declining industrial production and capacity utilization. Decreased workloads result in improved labor productivity and reduced labor (unit) costs until actual producer (wholesale) prices decline.

  1. Second Phase: Recovery to Expansion (consumer driven)

Scenario: CPI declines (due to reduced wholesale prices) and consumer real income rises, improving consumer sentiment and actual demand for consumer goods.

  1. Third Phase: Expansion to Peak (production driven)

Scenario: GNP rises leading to increased industrial production and capacity utilization. But, labor productivity declines and unit labor costs and producer (wholesale) prices rise.

  1. Fourth Phase: Peak to Contraction (consumer driven)

Scenario: CPI rises making consumer real income and sentiment erode until consumer demand, and ultimately purchases, shrink dramatically.  Recessions may occur and economists have an alphabet used to describe them.

For example, with a V, the drop and recovery is quick. For U, the economy moves up more sluggishly from the bottom. A W is what you would expect: repeated recoveries and declines. An L shaper recession describes a prolonged dry economic spell or even depression.

NOTE: Historically, contractions have had a shorter duration than expansions.

Bull and Bear Markets for Medical Professionals

A bull market is generally one of rising stock prices, while a bear market is the opposite. There are usually two bulls for every one bear market over the long term.

More specifically, a bear market is defined as a drop of twenty percent or more in a market index from its high, and can vary in duration and severity.  While a bull market has no such threshold requirement to exist, other than they exist between these two periods of sharp decline.

Whither the Bear?

As a doctor, your action plan in a bear market depends on many variables, with perhaps your age being the most important:

In your 30s:

  • Pay off debts, school or practice loans.
  • Invest in safe money market mutual funds, cash or CDs.
  • Start retirement plan or 401-K account.

In your 40s:

  • Increase your pension plan or 401-K contributions.
  • Stay weighted more toward equity investments.
  • Review your goals, risk tolerance and portfolio.

In your 50s:

  • Position assets for ready cash instruments.
  • Diversify into stock, bonds and cash.


  • Maintain 3 years of ready cash living expenses.
  • Reduce, but still maintain your exposure to equities.

ASSESSMENT: So, where are we right now in the economic business cycle? Your thoughts are appreciated.






2 Responses

  1. Sebastian,
    Many thanks for the “like”.


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