Bulls, Bears Can't Decide on Market Direction

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) --- Last week's post-mortem: Dow Jones Industrial Average down 4.5%; S&P 500 down 5% (and 11.9% for the quarter); Nasdaq down 5.9%.

This week's outlook, according to our latest sentiment survey: It's really anybody's guess.

Participants in the latest edition of the TheStreet's Bull vs. Bear poll are leaning slightly negative. As of 5 a.m. EDT Tuesday (U.S. markets were closed Monday for the Independence Day holiday), poll-takers who were bearish tallied 567 votes, or 43.9% of the total 1,291 votes cast. Bulls scored 548 votes, or 42.4%, while survey-takers who were neutral came in at 176 votes, or 13.6% of the total.

Investors are hungry for answers to the questions about the state of the economy , particularly given Friday's disappointing U.S. jobs report . But they could be undecided about the direction of stocks because the holiday-shortened week is expected to be light on volume and little in the way of economic data will be released. Earnings also won't provide much clarity as it isn't until next week that Alcoa ( AA), as tradition, kicks off the quarterly earnings season. Family Dollar, on Wednesday, is the only company in the S&P 500 scheduled to issue its report this week.

Premarket futures suggest U.S. stocks will open higher when trading begins Tuesday.

European markets Tuesday were gaining while Asian shares finished with gains led by a 1.9% rise in the Shanghai Composite Index.

The precious metals and commercial banks sectors were viewed by poll participants as those most likely to rise this week. The homebuilding sector, like last week, was seen as the most likely sector to post declines.

> > Bull or Bear? Vote in Our Poll

The poll closes at 9:15 a.m.

Here's a wrap-up of our other poll this week:

Nature took pity on BP, for once, with Hurricane Alex sparing the BP oil spill response from a direct hit as it touched the U.S.-Mexico border this week. Does that mean it's time to breathe a collective sigh of relief and buy up the beaten down shares of BP?

We asked readers of TheStreet this question last week, and the results suggest that even with the merciful path of Hurricane Alex, investors are still wary of BP as a deep value investment. In deep water remains the default position regarding the situation for BP, as opposed to BP representing a stock market deep value opportunity.

BP shares rose this week from $27 to over $29, but most survey takers would be willing to wait for a still-lower entry point for BP stock. Approximately 20% of survey takers proved to be soothsayers of the hurricane apocalypse, voting that before it's over the hurricane season will be the thing to KO BP.

By far the largest block of survey votes pinned an acceptable "buy" BP value at $25, with 28% of survey respondents saying that if BP hit that mark, it would signal the time to place a long bet.

>>Click here for full results and analysis of our BP stock poll

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