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Figuring Out Who's Right In the Bull vs. Bear Battle

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The argument between bulls and bears on whether the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average are justifiably soaring or a catastrophe on legs continues to rage.

Some believe they can clearly prove why the stunning performance of U.S. equities is no phenomenon. Others are equally adamant that a retracement is just around the corner. The only clear point, it seems, is that whoever is correct in this argument will be in good stead for the long run.

That activity on the U.S. markets is defying the odds is beyond debate. In a much-publicized milestone, the Dow Jones beat the 17000 mark last week, the crest of a peak never before seen. The S&P tells a similar story, getting closer than ever to touching 2000 after three successive months of impressive gains.

After the anticipated sell-off, those gains appear to have largely stuck: the Dow Jones is just under 17,000 at time of writing, and the S&P is hovering around the 1966 mark. Underpinning this is a market showing less activity than during the spikes of the previous two decades, with no tech or mortgage bubble to point to as the chief driver of growth. So what's causing the growth?

>>Why Apple Shares Remain a Bargain Despite Reaching New Highs

One reason for the rise in U.S. investment has been the increasing signs of an improving U.S. economy (and alleviation of negative outside influences), combined with a clear refusal from the Federal Reserve to end tapering. Over here in the UK, the FTSE saw a fairly heavy drop as Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, signaled a probable increase in interest rates. Remarkably, Thursday's non-farm payrolls release boosted both indices and the dollar - the U.S. bullish market appears to be spreading, with different traders taking different positives from each announcement.

Bearish traders will want more concrete proof that the markets are on solid ground, and a probable reason for market performance does not provide that. What may, however, is a greater understanding of the stocks propelling this rise.

The perennial favorite, Apple (AAPL), has seemingly got over a slow (by Apple's standards, at least) 2013 to get close to the all-time high reached in 2012. Another strong performer is BlackBerry (BBRY), which in June and July popped back up to healthier levels though still nothing on the stellar performance of yesteryear.

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Chart of I:DJI
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