Investors have lived for half a year in the shadow of the bear, and now find the the indexes on the cusp of breaking back into the light.
The market has burned up a brimming reservoir of pessimism and done just enough to encourage the bulls, without fully disproving the skeptics case that last year's highs will go unchallenged.
Wednesday will mark six months since the S&P 500 reached its last record high at 2,930. The 20 percent drop from there to Dec. 24 was among the swiftest in Wall Street history. Its recovery of four-fifths of that loss in less than three months has been at least as extraordinary by historical standards.
Last week's resilient showing nosed the S&P 500 up to a zone that has capped four rallies since October and three between February and June 2018.
Certain strict market-cycle observers still consider the underlying bull-bear status of the market in play, viewing last September's high as a plausible peak and everything since as the opening movements of a bear market. That's perhaps a semantics exercise unhelpful to most investors, given the market is up a bit over the past year and less than 4 percent below that 6-month-old record.
Doug Ramsey, chief investment officer at Leuthold Group, was positioned for a bear phase well before the fourth-quarter slide and remains skeptical, but still grants that the rebound has moved beyond a mere reflex rally: "Based on standard technical retracements and on our mortality tables for bear market rallies, the best-case S&P 500 bounce 'should' have exhausted itself in the 2,700-2,750 range." It didn't.