Market Preview: Dare to Dream
Updated from 9:28 a.m. ET on Feb. 21 to include latest information on progress in Greece's bailout talks.
NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Yes, there are quarterly reports, economic data, and the latest drama from Greece to concern investors this week, but there's also a reason for hope and optimism: Pitchers and catchers reporting for spring training!
After all, the baseball fan is up there with the retail investors as one of nature's great rationalizers, always finding a way to summon a scenario where his or her team can go all the way. If this guy builds on what he did last year, if the rookie has a breakout season, if the old vet can turn the back the clock for six months, it's World Series here we come. Anyone who's ever bought a tiny biotech stock knows the feeling.
The slow stretching, easy smiles, green grass and blue skies that accompany baseball in February epitomize hope: Everyone is 0-0 again, nothing counts yet and nearly all the story lines can be spun into positives.
In that spirit, any bearish indicators out there are being overlooked for a day in favor of keeping it simple and stating that stocks are putting together a helluva year so far. The S&P 500 has booked gains in six of the first seven weeks of 2012, the equivalent of hitting .857. It's been mostly worm-burners, one small gain after another, but they've added up to an 8.2% year-to-date advance on a price basis.
2011 was flat for the S&P 500, and the index still is facing a hurdle as it comes up against last year's high of 1370, but given the way things are progressing, investors can be forgiven if they dare to dream.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average has risen an impressive 5.9%, while the Nasdaq Composite , helped along by an MVP-caliber year from Apple(AAPL) , is the comeback kid, surging 13.3% so far after losing roughly 2% in 2011.
An unspectacular earnings season hasn't slowed stocks, and the economic data seem to be picking up some momentum, with housing and employment showing real signs of life recently.
Some doubts about the Federal Reserve coming through with QE3 cropped up this past week, but that can be spun as one of those good problems to have, because it means economic conditions are improving enough that another round of asset purchases isn't justifiable.
Europe's not out of the woods by any means, but optimism that Greece will get its next round of bailout money and about the European Central Bank's second long-term refinancing operation later this month are keeping the sellers at bay.
Being bearish right now seems to be the equivalent of being the cranky guy who calls the sports talk radio station in the middle of the night to drone on about all the things the manager of the first-place team did wrong in the last game (even though it won). There may be some logic in his sourness, but no one wants to hear it.