Road Ruminations

Heard you missed us, we're back. I brought my pencil and -- unlike David Lee Roth -- have something to write on/with.

There's nothing like travel to give you perspective on life, the world, and -- yes -- the financial markets. After an extended stay on the Continent, it will probably take a few days for me to get caught up -- back in the "flow" as it were. So, please bear with me as I begin by looking back just a bit, before going forward.

Things were looking pretty good for Mr. and Mrs. Market when we last visited with the loving couple in mid-August. The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

had surged back above the 11,000 mark, the

S&P 500

was hovering near 1500 and threatening to make a run to its all-time closing high of 1527.46, which it eclipsed intraday on Sept. 1. (No doubt causing some excitement among the punditry in the process, however short-lived.

Gee I'm so sorry I missed that?

)

Meanwhile, everybody's favorite index -- the

Nasdaq Composite

-- seemed to have finally righted itself and was reapproaching positive ground for the year, which it accomplished during my absence -- rising to a closing best of 4234.33.

The Comp's recent apex also came on the opening day of September, which has proven to be a pretty darned cruel month. Following the latest setback Wednesday, the major averages are now down 3.9%, 4.6%, and 7.2%, respectively, since Aug. 17. More troubling is that the Dow and S&P are each off about 6% from their recent closing highs, while the Comp is down 13.7%.

While not

terrible

in absolute terms, the market's performance certainly hasn't been pretty. It also pretty much confounded the

prognosticators cited in this space before my trip.

Sam Ginzburg, senior managing director of equity trading at

Gruntal

, who was most bullish (and thus, most wrong) last month, remains fairly positive, noting money isn't fleeing from equities even if individual stocks --

priceline.com

(PCLN)

being the latest example -- are being throttled on a daily basis.

Ginzburg is bullish on near-term prospects for stocks such as

Novell

TheStreet Recommends

(NOVL)

and

Micron

(MU) - Get Report

, which seem to have "found a base" after recent struggles. He believes they may attract the attention of portfolio managers in the coming weeks vs. names such as

Lucent

(LU)

, for which the trader foresees continued weakness. As of Wednesday afternoon, Ginzburg's desk did not have a position in any of the three.

Before you dismiss Ginzburg for his ill-fated prediction last time around, note he's a trader and hence more focused on short-term (like day-to-day) developments. The strategist types who are supposed to be more forward-looking didn't fare much better. (John Bollinger, president of

Equity Trader.com

in Manhattan Beach, Calif., who came closest in forecasting what would transpire, was unavailable for comment.) Finally, it doesn't seem like

anyone

has fared too well of late in the forecasting department, save those who've contended the market will continue to confound as many investors as possible. (A return to its historic tendency, that is.)

Of course, you know the reasons most commonly proffered for the market's recent fate -- rising oil prices (until just recently), the sinking euro (same) and, of late, myriad profit warnings. Which brings us -- more or less -- up to date.

So, now that all of the children are growing up, where do we go from here? My initial take on returning from Europe was that there's too much fear and dread right now, suggesting a rally is in the offing, similar to the

last time I traveled.

I'm emboldened such a scenario will occur -- short term -- if for no other reason the end of the third-quarter approaches, and happens to fit pretty nicely this year with the old adage "buy 'em on Rosh Hashana, sell 'em on Yom Kippur." The recent rise in

put buying furthers the notion the averages could enjoy a reprieve from the selling.

But be wary about making too much of any near-term advance, should one occur. First, for all the talk about how "scared" market players are these days, I'm having a hard time finding any who are so disposed. All the traders I've spoken with since returning say the

other

guys and gals are really frightened, but they're "hanging in" by sticking to their knitting and aren't overly concerned. Unless these folks are too chicken to say they're chicken (a possibility), it seems there's more

frustration

than fear among market pros these days.

While that may be unpleasant, it doesn't mean the kind of capitulation has occurred to signal a solid, navigable bottom is in place.

Aaron L. Task writes daily for TheStreet.com. In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, although he owns stock in TheStreet.com. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. He invites you to send your feedback to

Aaron L. Task.