Following the market's levitation since mid-March, the motto of many skeptics seems to be: "Disliked it at 7400, hate it at 8700."

The bears have multiple reasons for their cautiousness, including valuations, the weakening dollar, punk economic activity, deflation, excessive optimism, rising speculation and a still unstable world, or some combination thereof. Optimists should take heed of these issues, although many will take heart in the skeptics' stubbornness. Indeed, those looking for the bears to capitulate are going to have to wait, which is a "good" thing for those thinking such towel-tossing will mark the rally's peak.

Even prior to the market's setback on Thursday, scant few bears felt any siren call from the rally since the mid-March low. True, bearish sentiment in Chartcraft.com's Investors Intelligence survey has fallen to 22% this week from 35% in early April, but few of the skeptics in my universe have changed sides. In fact, many cite the falling bearishness in the II survey and other sentiment indicators to justify their own pessimism.

"Yes the bears are being squeezed, and a bearish case is hard to stick with," said Phil Erlanger, editor of Erlanger's Squeeze Play. "But sentiment readings are reminiscent of major tops, not bottoms."

Earlier this month , Erlanger said the postwar rally should be treated as a bear market interlude unless the S&P 500 eclipsed its August high of 965, preferably on expanding volume. He reiterated that view this week, even as the index moved within a few points of 965.

Similarly, Steve Hochberg, chief market analyst at Elliott Wave International in Atlanta, discussed a "running triangle" here on May 2, suggesting that a bearish pattern would remain intact unless the S&P took out its Dec. 2 high of 954. The S&P exceeded that level -- intraday -- Wednesday and Thursday, but Hochberg wasn't coming down from the bearish ledge, even as he conceded the S&P's running triangle had been negated.

"It's not a number, it's not prices rallying" that would change his viewpoint, Hochberg said.

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