Millionaires are more afraid than ever — nearly 40% are not investing
• The Spectrem Millionaire Investor Confidence Index in May fell 17 points from April.
• That's the biggest month-to-month drop ever recorded by Spectrem Group.
• The survey found 39 percent of millionaires plan to avoid investing in the coming month – the highest percentage since December 2013.
Robert Frank | @robtfrank
Thursday, 1 Jun 2017 | 11:39 AM ETCNBC.com
Millionaire confidence plunged by a record amount in May, sparked by fears of government dysfunction in Washington.
The Spectrem Millionaire Investor Confidence Index, a measure of millionaire confidence in the economy and markets, fell 17 points from April. That's the biggest month-to-month drop ever recorded by Spectrem Group, a Chicago-based wealth-research firm that created the index.
The survey found that almost 4 in 10 (39 percent) of millionaires plan to avoid investing in the coming month — the highest percentage since December 2013.
The main reason for the drop: politics and the turmoil surrounding the Trump administration.
The top concern cited by the millionaires surveyed was the political environment.
"Even though the stock market remains at near-record high levels, millionaire investors are becoming increasingly cautious," said Spectrem President George H. Walper Jr. "This is likely due to growing concerns about the weakening political position of President Trump given recent controversies, the declining likelihood of substantive tax reform in the near term, as well as concerns about the recently submitted proposed federal budget."
"Although nonmillionaires also recorded a drop in confidence, the fact they are slightly more confident now than millionaires is a strong indication that we may be entering a tumultuous period for investors," Walper said.
The political pessimism among millionaires is not being driven by Democrats, which would be predictable. The largest drop in the survey came among Republican millionaires.
"The Republican millionaires may believe they delivered the House, Senate and presidency and still nothing is getting done, which ultimately may impact their economic views. They are worried that government dysfunction, which they identify as the most significant threat to the economy, could jeopardize both health care and the important tax cuts that may be fueling part of the stock market surge," he said.
Of course, the stock market has continued to rally in recent weeks, which doesn't suggest a panic among millionaires. And the survey is just a one-month snapshot.
But since millionaires own the bulk of the stocks and financial assets in the U.S., their fear could put a damper on stock-market growth in the coming weeks and months.
The Spectrem Millionaire Index measures the investment sentiment of households with $1 million or more in investible assets. The research was conducted between May 19 and May 23.
Robert Frank CNBC Reporter and Editor