A major week for news produced minor losses for blue chips, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling 0.6% and the S&P 500 shedding 1%. Selling was heavier in the Nasdaq Composite, which gave up 3.2% over the five sessions. The week also ended with market participants seemingly more hardened than ever in their outlook for shares.

Befitting a nation more politically polarized than at any time in a generation, there doesn't seem to be a lot of middle ground on Wall Street these days -- people are either wildly bullish or apocalyptically bearish. That's an exaggeration, but it's striking how often either camp can look at the same event and come to decidedly different conclusions.

Case in point being Intel's ( INTC) report after the close Tuesday, in which earnings were in line with expectations but revenue slightly below. The chip giant lowered its profit outlook for the year, citing rising inventories, and lowered its gross margin guidance. But Intel also raised its third-quarter revenue outlook and denied seeing any evidence of a corporate spending slowdown, as recently cited by a number of software makers.

Major averages stumbled Wednesday in the wake of Intel's announcement, but rallied from their intraday lows and the damage was not as bad as many feared.

To optimists, the market's ability to weather the news from Intel, as well as disappointing retail sales, reflected bullish resiliency and an underlying desire of traders to buy the proverbial (and actual) dips. The bulls were further encouraged this week by strong results and/or guidance from IBM ( IBM), Novellus Systems ( NVLS), Dell ( DELL), Apple Computer ( AAPL), Johnson & Johnson ( JNJ) and McDonald's ( MCD), as well as a better-than-expected Philadelphia Fed survey.

"My tea leaves tell me that ... the big rally is within just a couple of weeks of blasting off," Don Hays of Hays Advisory Group declared Friday, citing a recent spike in the 10-day Arms Index; high equity put/call ratios; the Dow Transports' "upside breakout," attractive equity valuations relative to Treasuries; one of the "steepest and most powerful yield curves in history"; rising 2005 earning estimates; and bullish election year cycles.

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