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Jan. 15, 2004, 12:01 a.m. EST

It's hard to be a bear these days

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By Peter Brimelow, CBS.MarketWatch.com

NEW YORK (CBS.MW) -- Are the grumps giving way? The veteran bears are unbowed, but getting distinctly battered.

It's been two months since I reviewed the geezers -- my term for the advisers who were around at the time of the last bear market bottom in 1974. (See Nov. 3 column).

At that time, only a few hard-core skeptics about the stock rally remained. I call them the grumps. And since then, the Dow has risen another 1,000 points.

The grumps are still bearish. But they're showing such strain that I wonder if this might be it.

Investors Intelligence's Michael Burke (0 percent invested) recently said ruefully:

"While we certainly missed upside opportunity, we feel it is now too late to chase overbought markets, and we await a general decline toward oversold levels to offer better buying chances."

Growth Fund Guide's Walter Rouleau, invested in gold and defensive funds, makes a similar concession:

"We did not expect the rise to be as big as it has been or last as long as it has. Remember we are doing our best to invest the way John Templeton or Warren Buffett would... they would not invest in a mini-bull market that is basically a big counter-trend rise during a super bear market that is expected to last for several more years."

Rouleau means it, though: he recently said investors should "buy on weakness" Prudent Bear and other funds that short the U.S. market.

The redoubtable Richard Russell of Dow Theory Letters, has actually been impressed by the short-term strength of the market for several months. But he didn't formally go back into the market, so he's counted as being in cash by the Hulbert Financial Digest.

Russell did vaguely suggest that "speculators" use S&P Spyders and Dow Diamonds. But vague doesn't count for the HFD.

The result is that we get angry e-mail from two different groups of readers, who think we're (a) too soft or (b) too hard on Russell.

Sigh. You might almost think the cunning old devil does it deliberately.

Last night, Russell was repeating his macroeconomic concerns and his bullishness in gold, but in noticeably general terms. He also said again that he was impressed by the market's current strength and was "keeping my eye on" a slew of closed-end funds:

MuniHoldings California Insured Fund /zigman2/quotes/210335874/composite MUC -1.17%

Van Kampen California Value Municipal Income Trust /zigman2/quotes/201694027/composite VCV -2.45%

$ 10.96
-0.13 -1.17%
Volume: 543,153
Dec. 8, 2022 4:10p
$ 9.96
-0.25 -2.45%
Volume: 191,406
Dec. 8, 2022 4:10p
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