NEW YORK (
) -- Caution. Trepidation. Call it what you will, but sentiment has shifted mildly to the bearish side, according to the results of TheStreet.com RealMoney Barometer Survey, as an encouraging start to the holiday shopping season in the U.S. was being weighed down by debt concerns out of Dubai.
In the final poll results Monday, participants who were bearish racked up 458 votes, or 44%, of the total 1033 votes cast in the survey. The bulls scored 445 votes, or 43%, while neutral tallied 130 votes, or 13%.
It's the first time in four weeks that the bears have led the poll.
>>View Poll Results
On the bearish side, commercial banks were seen as the sector most likely to post declines this week, tallying just under 29% of the bearish votes. The stocks of big U.S. banks --
, down 2.6% on Friday;
Bank of America
, down 3%; and
, down 2%; -- skidded on news that Dubai's investment arm, Dubai World, could default on $60 billion in debt. But once the dust settled Friday, a day that saw stock markets in the U.S. fall during an abbreviated session, it was reported that U.S. banks had
to the problems in Dubai, contrary to their European counterparts.
News on Sunday that the United Arab Emirates' central bank will offer additional liquidity to banks, a move designed to keep credit markets from freezing up, could assuage investors.
Not surprisingly, investment banks and brokers were seen as the second most likely sector to fall this week, a week chock full of economic reports, the biggest being the Labor Department's November employment report, scheduled for Friday.
For those investors leaning bullish, precious metals was being viewed as the sector most likely to post gains, followed by commercial banks.
The metals sector continues to be looked upon favorably in the eyes of poll participants, despite gold falling $13.10 on Friday to $1,175.50 as word hit the markets that Dubai World said it was asking for a six-month delay to repaying its debt. Gold for February delivery was recently trading at $1,171.50, down $4 on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.
As far as retailing is concerned, it appears shoppers came out for Black Friday and stayed through the weekend sapping up bargains at stores such as
, and online at
According to preliminary figures released Saturday by research firm ShopperTrak, sales rose 0.5% to $10.66 billion Friday from a year earlier. That was on top of a 3% increase last year.
Online sales Thursday and Friday rose 11% to $913 million, according to data released Sunday by comScore, an Internet research firm.
The National Retail Federation trade group, meanwhile, said Sunday it was sticking to its forecast for holiday sales to decline 1% from last year.
Last week, the
Dow Jones Industrial Average
fell 0.1%, the
was flat and
U.S. markets were headed for a lower open Monday after trending higher during the Asian session.
Asian stocks ended higher Monday after the United Arab Emirates moved to contain the fallout from Dubai's debt crisis.
Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average climbed 264.03 points, or 2.9%, to close at 9,345.55, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 3.25% and South Korea's Kospi added 2%.
Stocks in Europe were trading with losses of under 1% as of 9:15 a.m. Monday.
Here is a wrap-up of our other polls:
The recent market view of the banking sector has been fairly schizophrenic. Of course, there has to be a bull for every bear, and a buyer for every seller, for the wheels of capitalism to keep-on-a-moving, but recent big-wig opinions on banking have been downright hard to reconcile.
One day, star bank analyst Meredith Whitney is playing the banking sector version of Chicken Little, calling her bear outlook and expecting the sky to fall on Wall Street's big boys at any moment. The very next day, famed hedge fund manager John Paulson said he was banking on big gains from the banking sector, and put his considerable money where his mouth was, buying a big stake in Bank of America. (Click here for
So do the gains made by the banks over the past year mean that the road to recovery is clear and Whitney is just the type of pessimist that the markets don't need right now? Or does the dip in the big bank stocks since mid-October provide evidence that the road to recovery may in fact be a long one, and lined with bears like the Alaskan Highway?
survey takers are any judge, you can take your Chicken Little game elsewhere, Meredith Whitney. The bulls have it! With 67.9% of the votes cast in
poll, the outlook for banks is bullish. We can only assume the 32.1% of the poll respondents who believe the outlook for banks continues to be bearish continue to keep their money under the mattress.
As you likely know by now,
are engaged in a price war of sorts -- and as the two duke it out, the membership warehouse club says it has terminated all new orders of Coke products.
This, of course, is not exactly good for Coca-Cola.
The beverage giant believes its prices are fair, but Costco says they are not wallet-friendly. In light of this, we asked you: Who do you think will be the first to blink, Costco or Coca-Cola?
Most of you, 65.7%, think that Coca-Cola will eventually make a concession and lower its prices. The other 34.3% don't see Coca-Cola yielding to Costco's demands.
After his combative performance on Capitol Hill two weeks ago, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's hold (or lack thereof) on the reins of the U.S. economy has been the subject of much speculation. Some market watchers have already unofficially given the keys to the Treasury Building to JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon.
As a result, we asked
survey takers a simple question: If Geithner is soon to join the 10% of the U.S. work force on the rolls of unemployment, who would make the best new Treasury secretary?
The answer we received was a little surprising, to say the least. It was a lot more than a little surprising, honestly, and it leads directly to a discussion of just how political the top economic jobs in Washington have become in the wake of the worst recession since the Great Depression and maybe the most infamous acronym in U.S. history: TARP.
According to survey takers, the next Treasury secretary will be a Paul, but not Volker. Easily beating out Dimon, Volker -- and even the Oracle of Omaha,
-- Texas representative and fringe presidential candidate Ron Paul should be the next Treasury secretary, our survey-takers say, with a commanding 36.3% of the votes cast. Dimon finished second, with 24.5% of respondents wanting to see him helming U.S. economic policy.
-- Written by Joseph Woelfel and Ty Wenger in New York.
This article was written by staff members of TheStreet.com. AP contributed to this report.