By John S. McClenahen In 2001, the bull was a bit bearish. Merrill Lynch & Co., New York, figured S&P 500 operating EPS would come in at $38.00. Actually, says the securities firm, the figure was closer to $39.00. So Merrill Lynch is adding a dollar to its 2002 and 2003 forecasts, now estimating operating EPS at $44.00 for this year and $54.00 for next. If Merrill Lynch is accurate, S&P 500 operating EPS will post a year-over-year growth of 13% in 2002 and 23% in 2003. But even with the upward revision for 2001 operating EPS, the year-to-year decline of 30% was the worst on record, says Merrill Lynch.