Publish date:

Bulls Brush Off Bernanke

The Fed upped the discount rate but inflation is tame giving bulls a boost in our sentiment survey.

Updated from 7 a.m. EST

NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) -- What rate hike?

Sure, it wasn't the fed funds rate that the

Federal Reserve

hiked last week -- just the discount rate -- but a rate increase is a rate increase and this one could lead to more influential rate rises down the road as the Fed tightens monetary policy. But investors are taking the Fed's move in stride, perhaps thinking that any potential increase in the fed funds rate is a ways off, as bullishness prevails heading into a new trading week.

Taking the edge off the rate rise also was a report on Friday that showed consumer prices, excluding food and energy, fell last month.

As of 9:15 a.m. Monday, survey-takers who were bullish totaled 54.8%, or 618 of the 1,127 votes cast in the TheStreet.com's RealMoney Barometer Poll. Those who were bearish tallied 31.1%, or 350 of the votes cast, while 14.1%, or 159 participants in the poll were neutral.

As far as sectors go, commercial banks lead the way as the sector viewed most likely to post gains by the time trading ends Friday. And has often been the case in our past sentiment surveys, banks are also seen as the industry most likely to decline as well.

Two things may drive the markets this week, now that earnings are winding down. Reports are still expected from the likes of home-improvement giant

Home Depot

(HD) - Get Report

and

Lowe's

(LOW) - Get Report

and retailers

Macy's

(M) - Get Report

and

Target

(TGT) - Get Report

, but further comments this week out of the Fed and events overseas could take precedence, particularly out of China.

China shut down all of last week for the Lunar New Year celebration, but Monday Shanghai got back to action ending with a decline of 0.5%. That was in stark contrast to markets in Japan and Hong Kong, which rose 2.7% and 2.4%, respectively.

Investors in China remain concerned by regulators' moves earlier this month that forced banks to aside more reserves as a way to curb lending.

European shares at 9:15 a.m. were mostly higher.

In the U.S., stocks ended last week to the upside. The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

rose 3%, the

S&P 500

rose 3.1% and the

Nasdaq

tacked on an increase of 2.8%.

Premarket futures suggest U.S. stocks will open higher on Wall Street Monday.

In corporate news,

Schlumberger

(SLB) - Get Report

said it plans to acquire

Smith International

(SII)

in a

deal valued at $10.6 billion

, creating an oilfield services giant.

> > Bull or Bear? Vote in Our Poll

The poll closed at 9:15 a.m.

Here is a wrap-up of our other polls:

This past week could well be dubbed famed-investor-cheat-sheet-week for the average investor, who in most other weeks is stuck on Main Street with no more than his copy of the

Wall Street Journal

, his

Yahoo! Finance

portfolio, and friends and advice-givers on

CNBC

.

Warren Buffett,

George Soros and

John Paulson all released their quarterly portfolio changes in filings with the

Securities and Exchange Commission

.

Among all the notable buys and sells from the grand masters of American -- and Hungarian -- capitalism, were big bets placed on

Citigroup

(C) - Get Report

by hedge fund gurus Paulson and Soros. Paulson -- who already has called his shot as far as a recovery in the U.S. banking sector with existing big stakes in Citi and

Bank of America

(BAC) - Get Report

-- bought another 200 million shares of Citi in the fourth quarter.

Soros matched Paulson's bullish call on Citi, with his hedge fund taking its first big stake in Citigroup, buying up 95 million shares in the fourth quarter. Soros' Citi buying spree equaled $313 million worth of Citi shares at year's end.

TheStreet Recommends

So we asked the banking-hawk community of

TheStreet

readers,

Do you think Soros and Paulson are right, and Citigroup is a buy?

So it is with this caveat that the survey of

TheStreet

readers reports that 77% of survey-takers think Citigroup shares are a strong buy, even with the Soros and Paulson moves amounting to no more than an investing rearview mirror.

Only 4% of survey-takers indicated that now is time to dump Citigroup shares, and one can imagine that

Goldman Sachs'

(GS) - Get Report

Lloyd Blankfein,

Morgan Stanley's

(MS) - Get Report

John Mack, and

JPMorgan Chase's

(JPM) - Get Report

Jamie Dimon, are probably among this select group.

Notable alongside the Citigroup bulls was that a combined 19% of survey-takers did express a level of caution about Citigroup's outlook.

About 12% of respondents said that while the currently hold Citigroup shares, they would not add to their positions. While another 7% of survey respondents said they remain ambivalent about Citigroup shares and believe the U.S. banking sector offers better buys.

Click here for full results and analysis of our Citigroup poll

.

Coca-Cola

(KO) - Get Report

will continue to hold an edge over

PepsiCo

(PEP) - Get Report

in the emerging markets -- at least according to the readers of

TheStreet

who responded to

our recent poll.

But it's a close race.

Coca-Cola led by about 4.5 percentage points at 52.2%, compared with the approximately 47.8% of voters who believed that PepsiCo holds the most promise in the emerging markets.

Click here for full results and analysis of our Coca Cola-Pepsi poll

.

Last week, TheStreet

asked users

whether

Google's

(GOOG) - Get Report

broadband experiment would benefit Google by pushing Internet service providers to increase their performance, bringing more and faster traffic to the search engine. The decisive answer: yes.

Indeed, the affirmative response was overwhelming. More than 83% of poll-takers were sold on Google's idea, while just 16.8% said that while Google may be powerful, the company's efforts in this case are misguided.

Click here for full results and analysis of our Google poll

.

Despite evidence that

Toyota

(TM) - Get Report

might be recovering faster than expected from its massive recalls, users of

TheStreet

aren't convinced that the automaker will be out of the woods anytime soon.

We asked users of

TheStreet

in

a weeklong poll

comparing

Toyota

and

Ford

(F) - Get Report

whether the "purchase intent" figures from Edmunds.com -- which showed that Toyota's purchase intent, which had fallen from 13.9% to 9.7% during the height of the recall frenzy, had rebounded to 12.2% by Feb. 12 -- were an indication that Toyota would be able to weather the storm from its recall woes, and fend off the advances of Ford.

Most users of

TheStreet

say no.

Indeed, only about 22.9% of respondents say they believe Toyota's standing as the world's largest automaker is ironclad, while a whopping 77.1% of them say they think that the repercussions of Toyota's mistakes will be enough to knock the company from its perch as the world's No. 1 automaker.

Click here for full results and analysis of our Toyota poll

.

-- Written by Joseph Woelfel and Ty Wenger in New York.