NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Just one last trading session left in 2011, then investors can sit back and let the January effect take over until it's time to sell in May and go away.
Ah, the joys of market cliches! If only it were that simple. Think of all the volatility that would have been missed ... the higher highs, the lower lows! All that only to end up with the broadest measure of U.S. stocks -- the S&P 500 -- virtually unchanged from where it sat a year ago.
A quick rundown of the major U.S. equity indices finds the Dow Jones Industrial Average sitting pretty ahead of the final opening bell of the year. Thanks to Thursday's rally, blue-chip index is up 6.13% for 2011, far outpacing both the S&P 500, up .43% on a price basis, and the Nasdaq Composite, which is down 1.48% after falling out of correlation with its brethren following Oracle's (ORCL - Get Report) disappointing quarter.
So there is something rather important at stake on Friday, whether or not the S&P 500 will put 2011 in the books as an up or down year.Put well-known investor Dennis Gartman, who produces daily market commentary, in the bull camp. "Something clearly is going on here in the US that far too few investors are prepared to accept, but corporate America has done wonders with its balance sheet; has kept its work force 'lean and mean;' has worked inventories down to bare minimums; is attuned to paying out larger dividends than in the past and is generally fiscally more responsible," Gartman wrote early Friday. "A break upward through 1260-1265 in the S&P would be most impressive indeed. We expect it to happen... sooner rather than later." Retail investors are evidently feeling pretty good as well. The latest survey of the American Association of Individual Investors shows a sharp upswing in bullishness. The organization, which has more than 150,000 members, takes a poll each week asking how they feel about the direction of the S&P 500 over the next six months. For the week ended Dec. 28, the ranks of the bulls swelled to 40.6%, a sequential increase of 6.9 percentage points and slightly above a long-term average of 39%. The percentage of those feeling bearish rose as well though, reaching 30.8% after tacking on 2.6 points. The neutral camp, which was at multi-year highs last week, dropped 9.4 points to 28.6%, falling below its long-term average of 31%.
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