The slow drift toward lower levels that began on Tuesday accelerated in late morning, then reversed in the afternoon. Losses were largely contained at midday, and the conventional wisdom on Wall Street was that a mild pullback was not terribly unsettling, given the huge gains posted from Oct. 9 through Monday.

As of 2:43 p.m. EDT, the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

was down 0.5% to 8409.10, the

S&P 500

was lower by 0.4% to 887 and the

Nasdaq Composite

was up 0.9% to 1305.11 after having traded as low as 1279.50.

Unlike Tuesday, a weakness in equities was providing a boost to the Treasury market. The price of the benchmark 10-year note lately was up 17/32 to 101 15/32, yield falling to 4.19%.

Drugmakers were declining for a second-straight session, thanks to lowered guidance from

Pfizer

(PFE) - Get Report

. In addition,

Eli Lilly

(LLY) - Get Report

reduced its fourth-quarter guidance and was lately down 8.6% amid additional concerns about FDA approval of new drugs. The Amex Pharmaceutical Index was lower by 2.5%.

The Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index was lately up 3.7% despite lowered guidance Tuesday from

KLA-Tencor

(KLAC) - Get Report

.

Financial stocks also were under pressure after

The Wall Street Journal

reported

Citigroup

(C) - Get Report

Chairman Sandy Weill has retained outside counsel because his interests have diverged from those of the company. In a

statement, Weill said the story contains "outrageous speculation and wild inferences," and denied he ever exercised influence over research analyst at Citi's Salomon Smith Barney unit. Still, Citigroup shares lately were down 2.9% and the Philadelphia Stock Exchange/KBW Bank Index was off 1.1%.

Elsewhere,

Express Scripts

(ESRX)

was down 4.3% after

Aetna

(AET)

said it would bring its drug benefit business in-house.

Beyond the fundamental news, reports of rising bullishness also were weighing on shares, as sentiment is often considered a contrarian indicator.

Bullish sentiment rose to 38.9% in this week's

Investors Intelligence

poll from last week's eight-year low of 28.4%, while bearish sentiment fell to 35.6% from 43.2%. If last week's drop in bullishness was a sign the rally could continue (which it did), this week's data don't bode well for it to resume anytime soon.

Steve Hochberg, chief market analyst at Elliott Wave International in Atlanta, recalled that in 1994-95 there was a string of 40-plus weeks in which bears outweighed bulls in the

Investors Intelligence

data. "Now

that

was a low," Hochberg quipped via email. "This low is nothing, and the quick switch in the II survey supports this view. There are just too many people who are trying to 'call' a bottom."

Requiem for a Permabull

Speaking of bottom-pickers, Credit Suisse First Boston's chief equity strategist Tom Galvin -- along with just under 20% of the firm's research staff -- was laid off today, a CSFB spokeswoman confirmed. She declined to comment further.

As equity strategist at Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette (which CSFB acquired in November 2000) in the late 1990s, Galvin's resolute bullishness earned him increasing accolades and influence in concert with the stock market's ascent. Arguably, Galvin's star peaked on

May 3, 2000, when he issued a resoundingly bullish call on the market, and tech stocks in particular, shortly after a flattering feature article in

The New York Times

. Given the Comp had been suffering through the first major setback following the blockbuster rally in 1999 and early 2000, the call was widely covered and was credited by some as aiding a short-term rally.

But the advance proved short-lived, and Galvin pretty much spent the next two-plus years fighting an uphill battle of being a steadfast bull in a bear market. At the beginning of 2000, he predicted 6000 for the Comp; instead, the index tumbled to 2470.52. Undaunted, Galvin forecast the index would rise to 4000 in 2001, which it finished at 1987.26. Heading into this year, he forecast year-end targets of 11,400 for the Dow and 1375 for the S&P 500, the latter of which he lowered to 1140 in September.

Although Galvin started to emphasize consumer-oriented names in the past year, he never really shed his enthusiasm for tech shares and "New Era" economic theories. Nor did he stop being associated with such views, even though his recommended asset allocation of 70% stocks, 20% bonds and 10% cash as of Oct. 21 was in the middle of the pack among Wall Street's so-called major strategists.

With the Comp entering today down some 75% from its all-time peak in March 2000, it's easy to criticize Galvin as a relic of a bygone era. It wasn't so easy to criticize him in July 2001, when this column observed he was playing

fastand

loose with his forecasts in a way that was potentially misleading to retail investors (albeit not his target audience).

Since that episode, this column stopped reporting on Galvin's calls, although it took most major media outlets -- print and broadcast alike -- much longer to realize the strategist's credibility had been severely crimped, if not eradicated. Market participants used to joke about CSFB's institutional clients having their portfolios "Galvinized," meaning "vaporized" rather than "aroused to action" or coated with rust-resistant zinc.

To his credit, Galvin never ducked my calls, even as the market was going against him, unlike many other high-profile bullish strategists. But investors would have been better served to have ignored his (calls) in recent years, or better yet, fade them.

Finally, for those cheering Galvin's departure as a sign the bear market is ending, please note that he is just the one of many icons of the 1990s bubble. He's also a relatively minor one compared with the Queen (bull) bee, Abby Cohen of Goldman Sachs, or the head knight of the central bank roundtable, Sir Alan Greenspan. Both retain their jobs as of this writing, if not their once-unassailable influence.

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.