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Bulls in Control as Earnings Prep to Peak

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- It's cool to be bullish again, according to the latest sentiment survey from the American Association of Individual Investors.

The AAII takes the pulse of its more than 150,000 members every week, asking if they are bullish, bearish or neutral on the stock market for the next six months. According to the results of its most recent poll ended on Wednesday -- before European Union officials came across with their big deal to stop the region's sovereign debt crisis in its tracks -- 43% of respondents see equities on the rise.

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That's up 7 percentage points from last week, and comfortably above the long-term average of 39%. The AAII, which was founded in 1978, doesn't disclose how many of its members participate in the survey each week. This week's jump above 40% is the first such result since the week ended July 7.

Unsurprisingly, the bear camp thinned considerably. Only 25.6% of those polled said they expect stocks to fall in the next six months. That was down 9.6 percentage points from last week, and it represents the first dip below the long-term average of 30% since the week ended July 14. Those saying they're neutral totaled 32%, up 2.6 percentage points from last week and just above the long-term average of 31%.

Since bottoming out intraday on Oct. 4, the major U.S. equity indices have surged back into positive territory for the year. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 12,000 on Thursday for the first time since Aug. 1, and is on track for its best monthly performance in decades. The S&P 500 has gained more than 19% to 1284 since scraping its 52-week low of 1075 a little more than three weeks ago, and the Nasdaq has booked a comparable advance, going from 2299 to 2740.

That kind of performance, even removing the impact of Thursday's celebratory surge, was sure to bring some investors over to the bullish side of the fence.

Next week will see more discussion on the logistics of the European Union's designs, as well as a pick-up in chatter about the congressional supercommittee's Nov. 23 deadline to submit a plan to reduce the U.S. deficit by $1.2 trillion. The rumblings about another round of quantitative easing are also getting louder. Sentiment could take a slight hit, though, if the too far, too fast crowd rises above the general din or quarterly reports take a sharp turn for the worse.
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