While others may be baffled by the stock market's powerful rally of recent weeks, many of Wall Street's technical analysts say it makes plenty of sense to them.
The advance began, they say, in an atmosphere of intense gloom that has been typical of past market bottoms - and from the start it has exhibited signs of widespread strength that suggested it would have staying power.Technicians, who analyze the market based on internal measures of its fluctuations rather than outside influences such as corporate profits, have always been a controversial group.
Critics contend they did no better than anyone else at predicting the outburst of positive feeling that hit Wall Street with the start of the war in the Persian Gulf.
But wherever you rank their efforts on the scale of human endeavors, practitioners of the technician's art say the current rally started from a solid base and is proceeding in a style that looks convincing.
"Stock advances often take on lives of their own, as investors become emboldened by the market's favorable internal dynamics," say analysts at Standard & Poor's Corp. in the firm's weekly publication The Outlook.
"Those who rely mainly on technical indicators have much to be bullish about. The recent surge has all the characteristics of a major breakout" - including heavy trading volume and broad-based buying interest in a wide array of individual stocks and stock groups.
"The technical indicators are `saying' that the fundamentals will fall into place soon," S&P adds. "Indeed, our economists forecast the recession will end within a few months."
Byron Wien, an analyst at Morgan Stanley & Co., points out that many technical indicators used to measure sentiment among investors reached "bear-market-low proportions" in the waning stages of last year.
One example of those extremes, he says, was an especially lopsided ratio last fall of stocks trading at new 52-week lows compared to those at new highs.
Among other factors: "Insider buying has been very strong and about the volume seen at the important market bottoms in 1987 and 1974.
"Mutual fund cash (a measure of stock buying power in reserve) is higher than it was at the bottom in 1980, 1982 and 1974. Investment advisory services are pessimistic.
"If this is a secular (long-term) bear market, the positive technical factors will probably reach more extreme levels at some point," Wien concluded. "For now, however, they argue for a rally strong enough to tempt the most sour of pessimists."