Bulls See Stocks Up for a 4th Straight Week

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stocks rose for the third straight week and TheStreet's latest Bull vs. Bear survey predicts equities will post another weekly gain.

As of 5 a.m. EDT Monday, the poll finds survey-takers who were bullish on stocks tallying 243 votes, or 54.4%, of the 447 total votes cast. Bears came in with 144 votes, or 32.2%, while those neutral on stocks this week were at 60 votes, or 13.4%.

Poll participants expect the precious metals sector to lead gainers this week, with commercial banks in second place. Conversely, banks are seen as the sector most likely to decline, followed by the the precious metals sector.

Earnings continue apace this week with the likes of Microsoft ( MSFT), Exxon Mobil ( XOM), Procter & Gamble ( PG), Texas Instruments ( TXN), Sprint ( S), DuPont ( DD) and Chevron ( CVX) on the docket.

The news over the weekend from the Group of 20 meetings in South Korea could drive sentiment this week, but some analysts believe the market will be in a standstill until the U.S. mid-term elections next week.

The G-20, in a statement, vowed to avoid potentially debilitating currency devaluations and reduce trade and current account imbalances.

Stocks ended last week higher. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 rose 0.6%, while Nasdaq gained 0.4%.

Premarket futures were suggesting U.S. stocks would open higher on Monday.

Asian stocks finished higher Monday, while European shares at 5 a.m. were rising.

> > Bull or Bear? Vote in Our Poll

The poll closes at 9:15 a.m.

Here's a wrap-up of our other polls:

Volatile sectors like solar are also ripe for profit-taking. The euro may be at $1.40 now, but it caused the entire solar sector to crash just a few months ago. Fears of an event beyond the control of investors betting on short-term solar fundamentals are ever-present.

Many solar investors have used words we can't print to refer to claims that the sector sold off based on China concerns. There are good arguments to be made that the unfair trade support claims are unfounded when it comes to Chinese solar companies specifically, and what's more, would take so long to work their way through international courts that it's a non-starter as an investment issue. Nevertheless, the fact that solar bulls on the Street were out this week with reports downplaying the fears stoked by China are some kind of proof it must be in the minds of investors, in the least.

There's always going to be some bear thesis to spook solar investors. In the least, the recent selling raises the question, what's the way to play solar stocks headed into earnings?

It's certainly true that the those who've cried wolf about solar stocks going to zero have been wrong more often than they've been right of late. Yet that's a small subset of the larger, more fundamental issue that lack of visibility in the solar sector remains an impediment to understanding performance more than a few quarters out.

Possibly, all of these questions and fears are merely a game of strategic misdirection on the part of shorts and bears, and the truth is that solar is a core long-term holding, with neither a trade war versus China, earnings season, or the European market serving as a legitimate trigger to sell.

In fact, this was the answer TheStreet received when we asked readers the question: Is it time to take the money and run, or do solar sector fundamentals mean it's onwards and upwards for years to come with solar stock prices?

There was some trigger point or two for the Chinese solar stock sell off this week, but some solar investors are sticking to their guns in saying that solar will withstand the short-term pressures and the short investors.

Roughly 63% of solar investors in the survey said the long-term outlook has made solar stocks a core holding. Only 22% said they were taking the money and running off with the recent profits, and even less, 15% of solar survey respondents, said they were waiting for one last earnings pop before exiting the sector.

>>Click here for full results and analysis of our solar stocks poll

There's been concern among investors that coal stocks are heading for trouble amid falling natural gas prices and the growing preference among many utilities for renewable resources and natural gas as opposed to dirty coal.

Despite the bearish trends for coal, a number of analysts believe there's upside for the industry; the bullish indicators are there. Also noteworthy in the bullish regard for coal and the economy is Berkshire Hathaway ( BRK.B) and Warren Buffett's large Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad purchase earlier this year; Burlington is the second-largest railroad operator in the U.S., and one of the largest transporters of coal.

Currently, S&P coal analyst Mathew Christy's 12-month outlook for the coal and consumable fuels sub-industry is neutral, based on his belief that demand for coal will increase in 2010, as thermal coal inventories are reduced on higher electricity demand and little to no fuel switching, along with firmer demand in the seaborne and metallurgical coal markets. Meanwhile, market research firm IBISWorld said coal exports have been rising over the past five years, given that firms have been serving the Asia emerging markets where steel production -- a major source of metallurgical coal demand -- is still booming relative to the U.S. markets.

At this point, IBISWorld expects coal exports to increase at an annual rate of 12.7% in the five years to 2010.

In light of all this, we recently asked readers of TheStreet which coal stock of the ones above they consider to be the alpha stock of the group, and which they would most likely invest in over the next 12 months. The winner of the group was Peabody Energy, with 28.5% of the poll votes. Bullish attributes of the company include its large size and direct exposure to greater-growth markets such as India and China.

>>Click here for full results and analysis of our coal stocks poll

Starbucks ( SBUX) is making a mistake by asking its baristas to work at a slower pace -- at least that's what readers of TheStreet think.

We reported last week that Starbucks is asking its baristas -- the workers behind the counter who actually make the coffee drinks -- to work at a slower pace so customers don't feel like their coveted caffeinated beverages came off a mechanized assembly line.

Likely engaging in an overall strategy to differentiate itself further from the increasingly popular McCafe offerings at McDonald's ( MCD), Starbucks wants its baristas to prepare two drinks at a time at most, and to take more care in preparing each beverage. Baristas are being asked to steam milk for only one drink at a time instead of a whole pitcher for multiple drinks, as well as rinse pitchers after each use, remain at the espresso bar at all times and use one espresso machine instead of two.

We polled readers to see what they thought, asking whether or not Starbucks should slow down its service. Readers of TheStreet overwhelmingly agreed that no, they need their coffee as quickly as possible and would stop going to Starbucks altogether if the lines get any longer.

>> Restaurant Stocks: Earnings to Watch

Out of 537 votes, 76.5%, or 411 respondents, voted no, while just 23.5%, or 126 respondents, voted that yes, the Starbucks assembly line gets their order wrong too often and they are willing to wait a little longer for the perfectly prepared mochachino.

>>Click here for full results and analysis of our Starbucks poll

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