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'Dumb Money' Keeping Stocks Afloat: Analyst

Stocks in this article: AAPL BAC ^GSPC ^DJI ^DJT

He continued: "This non-confirmation by the transports is a bit worrisome and cause for some caution. We note that the divergence between the two indexes is not major from a price and time standpoint, so this is another reason that we only see a small pullback in the overall market."

Arbeter also questioned how much higher the financials, one of the sectors leading the broad market higher along with information technology, can go from here. Bank of America (BAC), up 45.5% year-to-date, is the top 2012 gainer in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which has risen 6% through Friday's close, as well as one of the biggest advancers in the S&P 500. The KBW Bank index has jumped 15.8% year-to-date.

"The financials are also starting to show some relative weakness as the S&P 500 Financials index recently ran into an area of heavy overhead supply," he wrote. "While still in uptrends, some of the other cyclical sectors of the S&P have run up to major regions of overhead supply after their torrid upside moves, and this, in our view, is a prescription for a pullback."

Arbeter said trendline support for the S&P 500 is at 1309 when projecting out around three weeks, and noted that: "The rising 50-day exponential moving average sits at 1,300, and many times this average acts as support during intermediate- and long-term uptrends."

Apple shares hit a new all-time high of $526.29 this past Wednesday but turned around abruptly during the session to close down for the day at $497.67. The stock got back to its winning ways on Thursday, then finished Friday at $502.12, up 24% for the year and 10% for the month.

The sell side only gets more ecstatic about Tim Cook's juggernaut though. An amazing 52 of the 57 analysts covering Apple are at strong buy (26) or buy (26), and the 12-month median price target sits at a lofty $600. On Friday, Oppenheimer was the one doing the gushing, lifting its earnings estimate slightly for fiscal 2012 and boosting its target by 12% to $570 from $510.

"Our iPhone checks suggest only a small post-holiday slowdown in iPhone 4S demand. iPad demand has fallen more post-holiday, although we believe this in part reflects the expectation of a new iPad3 announcement (likely updates include an upgraded display and faster processor)," the firm said. "We expect the iPad2 to step down to a lower price point expanding Apple's reach to lower priced tablet tiers. There's no change to our thesis--we're bullish on more iPhone and iPad expansion and potential new markets, particularly smart-TV."

Oppenheimer now expects earnings of $45.78 per share from Apple in 2012, up from a prior projection of $45.14 per share. The consensus is currently calling for a profit of $42.73. Even with the recent run-up, which has in part been fueled by speculation Apple may break with tradition and move to pay shareholders a dividend, the stock's forward price-to-earnings multiple is a reasonable 10.58X vs. 13.05X for the S&P 500.

S&P Capital IQ's Arbeter has a point about the unbridled bullishness getting worrisome. The American Association of Individual Investors weekly sentiment survey climbed to 51.6% for the week ended Feb. 9, well beyond the long-term average of 39%, before pulling back to 42.7% this week.

Also, there's been a major drop in those betting against the market as short interest has plunged. Research firm TrimTabs said earlier this week that NYSE short interest decreased 6.7% to 12.5 billion shares at the start of February, the lowest level on record, and down from a record high of 16.1 billion shares on Sept. 30.

-- Written by Michael Baron in New York.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Michael Baron.

Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks.
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