Double-Dip Recession Looms, Poll Says

(Double dip recession poll article updated for Monday market trading)

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Last week's trading began with big fears of a double-dip recession, but in the end the markets shrugged of the nattering nabobs of negativity. The three major U.S. equity indexes -- the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq -- all finished with weekly gains over 5% by the close of Friday trading. The price of crude oil surged above $76 on Friday, and crude also gained over 5% for the week, its largest weekly gain since May.

In short, what was a bad start for the July 4 holiday-shortened week, ended as one of the market's best weeks of trading in 2010.

Even dogs had their day. Take Monsanto ( MON), down more than 40% this year, but ending the week with a 7% gain on Friday.

It's hard to forget about BP ( BP), which is up roughly 24% over the past two weeks. On Monday, BP surged another 7% as its effort to place a tighter seal on the leaking oil well neared success as a way to staunch the flow of oil, and M&A whispers increased that BP might, in the least, sell $12 billion in Alaska oil assets to independent oil and gas company Apache.

There was a plethora of economic news to help the markets move higher last week, but on Monday, there was little direction offered by the markets ahead of the first important earnings reports of the season, Alcoa and railroad CSX. The markets were close to flat on Monday afternoon.

Before this week's data flood begins with the first earnings specific numbers from U.S. bellwether stocks, let's recap the macroeconomic data from last week.

Initial jobless claims fell 21,000 to 454,000 last week, according to the Department of Labor, the largest weekly drop since mid-April, and exceeding the expectation of economists.

On Thursday, the closely watched U.S. Department of Energy crude inventory report showed inventories decreased by 5 million barrels for the week ended July 2, a bigger decline than expected by analysts surveyed by Platts, who had forecast a decline of 3.5 million barrels of oil. Analysts polled by Reuters expected an even smaller decline of 2.3 million barrels.

The European Central Bank kept a benchmark interest rates unchanged at 1% and the International Monetary Fund upped its global growth forecast.

Last week wasn't a week without mixed messages for the markets. Chain store retail sales, for example, was the proverbial mixed bag, with some retailers outperforming, while other retail sales reports buttressed fears of weak consumer spending. The positive economic data from the past week did turn the tide of some negative economic data points from late June. Existing home sales were down. New home sales were down. Private sector job growth was weak. The most recent Institute of Supply Management manufacturing and non-manufacturing indexes both declined, the manufacturing index more substantially.

The last of those negative reports was released on Tuesday, the ISM non-manufacturing index, and it was released on the only negative day of the week. However, the ISM data wasn't an easy case to close. Some market economists thought that as long as the reading stayed above the 50 point level that is the bare bones indicator of economic growth -- which it did -- all systems were still go, even if the growth rate might be modest.

Others contended that the decline in the ISM data was just the latest in a long line of double-dip recession poster children.

Those seeking the middle ground contended that regardless of the double dip, stocks had been oversold and deserved a minor relief rally.

Indeed, after the typical market data overload, and even with the equities and crude oil rally of above 5% this week, only a fool -- or maybe a Cleveland Cavaliers owner -- would claim the double-dip recession as a dead issue. In fact, when we asked readers of TheStreet over the past week for their views on the double dip recession dilemma, the results indicated that the case will remain open.

When all was said and done, the double-dip recession club won out, with roughly 36% of survey takers saying that a double dip is ahead.

Meanwhile, the most fundamental market wisdom is that there is a buyer for every seller, and our double-dip polled showed that old adage to again be the case. Another 30% of survey takers said that "unfounded fears" had created buying opportunities.

The rest of the survey responses were evenly split among those who don't trust economic data, don't believe in the double dip, or just don't trust the stock market.

Roughly 11% of survey takers said the latest economic data shows that no double dip recession is coming, while another 11% of respondents said that the only sane move was to stay away from stocks entirely.

Only 12% of survey takers said they don't trust any economic data, ISM or otherwise, as a market proxy.

Yet there's one market principle that can be depended on. The survey shows there still is a buyer for every seller, even if the last week it was the buyers who garnered the bullish headlines.

-- Written by Eric Rosenbaum from New York.

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