The bulls see no reason to relent in our weekly survey of market direction.

For the 13th week in a row, bulls ruled in the RealMoney Barometer poll. And they did it in a week with more than 2,000 people voting.

The bulls captured 46%, or 953, of the 2,071 votes cast. Neutral sentiment was at 27%, or 569 votes. The bears took 26%, or 549 votes.

Sectorwise, biotech was tapped as the most likely to rise this week, while integrated oil was seen as most likely to fall. Biotech has enjoyed the spotlight recently during the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference, and crude oil prices have taken a pounding, as have energy stocks.

Stocks were trading lower on Monday, but off their earlier lows. The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

was down about 22 points to 12,376; the

Nasdaq Composite

was about flat, at 2,434.40, and the

S&P 500

was down near 2 points, to 1,408.08. Crude oil futures were trading down 61 cents to $55.70 a barrel.

Stocks faltered on Friday when the December nonfarm payrolls number showed surprisingly strong growth. Stocks tend to react negatively to any economic reports that suggest the


would be disinclined to cut interest rates.

Several mergers were in the news, including

Forest Oil


, which said it plans to buy

Houston Exploration

( THX) for about $1.5 billion in stock and cash. Forest will also assume $100 million of Houston Exploration's net debt.

General Electric

(GE) - Get Report

said it will take over Vetco Gray, a Houston-based oil and gas fields equipment supplier, for about $1.9 billion. Vetco Gray is a subsidiary of Vetco International Ltd, which is owned by private equity firms Candover, 3i Group and JPMorgan Partners.


United Surgical Partners


agreed to be acquired by an affiliate of buyout firm Welsh Carson for $31.05 a share in cash, or $1.38 billion. The deal offers a 13% premium to Friday's closing stock price for Dallas-based United Surgical, a manager of short-stay surgical facilities.

Below are the complete results.

David Morrow is editor-in-chief of In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, though he owns stock in He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. He appreciates your feedback;

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