The term "dead cat bounce" is derived from the idea that "even a dead cat will bounce if it falls from a great height". The phrase has been used on Wall Street for many years. The earliest use of the phrase dates from 1985 when the Singaporean and Malaysian stock markets bounced back after a hard fall during the recession of that year. Journalist Christopher Sherwell of the Financial Times reported a stock broker as saying the market rise was a "dead cat bounce". A similar expression has an older history in Cantonese and this may be the origin of the term.
A short rise in price followed by a price decline of a stock is the standard usage of the term. In other instances the term is used exclusively to refer to securities or stocks that are considered to be of low value. First, the securities have poor past performance. Second, there is no indication of an impending rise in price. Lastly, there is no indication that sustained growth is imminent should a major upward shift occur in the market.
Some variations on the definition of the term include:
- A stock in a severe decline has a sharp bounce off the lows.
- A small upward price movement in a bear market after which the market continues to fall.