Small investors have abandoned the stock market in droves since the October crash, but their favorite financial television show host is as bullish as ever.

Louis Rukeyser, the silver-maned newspaper columnist and host of PBS's "Wall Street Week," told Reuters, "It's clear that stocks are pretty cheap. I regard the crash as an interruption in a long-term bull move."Adding to his optimism was the fact that viewership for his television show kept moving upward after the stock market plunged. Now in its 18th season, the top-rated public affairs program on the Public Broadcasting Service saw its ratings jump in the months after the Oct. 19 stock market crash, as interest in the economy and the market rose.

"We were among the principal beneficiaries after the crash - our ratings soared," said Rukeyser, 55, who says the public watches his Friday evening show more when times are rough.

"Some people say to me, `It's group therapy.' Everybody tunes in and we hold their collective hands and they have their session with Uncle Lou," he said.

Rukeyser, a much-sought public speaker even when the market is boring, said, "I wish I could have cloned myself three times after the crash. The other guys could have gone out on the road and made speeches."

But the man Money Magazine called the "Walter Cronkite of financial journalism" has been prolific enough in his career without any doubles helping out.

His most recent project is "Louis Rukeyser's Business Almanac," which he edited and co-wrote, a 700-page book of lists and information running the gamut of American industry. It was released this week by Simon and Schuster.

He also writes a widely syndicated newspaper column (published each Sunday in the Deseret News Money section) and has two prior book credits - "What's Ahead for the Economy: The Challenge and the Chance" and "How to Make Money on Wall Street."

On his television show, he irreverently pokes fun at the stock market and its stumbles, but he remains among the Wall Street faithful, and his sharpest criticism is aimed at those who are too negative.

The former Baltimore Sun reporter and ABC-TV London bureau chief describes himself as a "very successful" stock market investor and an optimist on the economy.

"I invest because I believe the course of the nation is upward," he said. "The doomsayers always get people's attention. But they're almost always wrong.

"The great myth about Wall Street among the majority of the people is that it is too bullish," he said. "In fact the reverse is true."

The biggest proof that the market is too negative, he says, is given by the performance of the economy after October. "All the magazine cover stories said we were headed for Depression, but now we have higher employment, higher incomes and smaller deficits," he said.

"This country was built on hope," he said. "I would not want to contemplate an America that was not an optimistic America. That's the great strain in this country and it's not a bit political. Ronald Reagan is optimistic but so was Hubert Humphrey."

His Business Almanac is filled with data which depict the relative decline of U.S. business on international markets, showing productivity rates sharply below its key competitors, Japan and West Germany, and huge Federal budget deficits.

But Rukeyser looks for the silver lining in the pile of statistics, pointing out, for example, that the much-feared aging of America, while weighing on health and Social Security programs, will also bring "less teenage crime, less untrained workers pouring into the work place and higher investment and savings."

Rukeyser said that his new book fills a gap because there had been no comprehensive business almanac available, and, with unabashed optimism, he says, "I'm sure the book will become a hardy perennial."