As the market recovery continued in April, buoyed by rising energy prices and dovish central bank policy, wealthy Americans became more confident, according to a recent survey by the Spectrem Group.
In April, the Spectrem Millionaire Investor Confidence Index, which measures the outlook of investors with between $1 million and $5 million in net worth, was at 11, up six points from March and one point year over year. This marked the measure’s return to “mildly bullish” for the first time this year.
The April Spectrem Affluent Investor Confidence Index, measuring the outlook of investors with between $100,000 and $1 million, was at four points, up one point from March and at the same level as it was in April 2015, indicating that affluent investors overall remained neutral on investing.
“What was most interesting to us was that the indexes have returned to the same level as a year ago, even after what was a pretty up-and-down year,” said Spectrem Group President George Walper in a Tuesday conference call. “Sentiment has been driven by what the market’s doing.”
This marks the second consecutive month that both indices are in positive territory, says Spectrem, and the third consecutive monthly gain for each index.
Men were more confident investors across the board. The Millionaire Investor Confidence Index for men was at 13 in April, compared with 4 for women, while the Affluent Investor Confidence Index for men was at 11 in April, compared with negative 7 for women.
Over the past year, the Millionaire Index reached a high of 17 in August 2015, and a low of -3 in January 2016, while the Affluent Index reached a high of 11 in July 2015, and a low of -4 in January 2016.
“Right now, confidence is trending upwards for millionaires,” Walper said. “It will be interesting to see how it goes in the next few months. The Affluent Index, on the other hand, is slowing down in terms of optimism.”
Confidence is measured on a range from -51, for highly bearish sentiments, to 51, for a bullish outlook. Spectrem considers values between -10 and 10 to be neutral.
As a component of its indices, Spectrem also measured the Affluent Household Outlook, a combination of respondents’ qualitative views on income, the economy, the financial health of the companies they work for and their household assets. The Affluent Household Outlook declined for the first time in 2016, from 19.8 in March to 16.6 in April, largely because of people’s pessimistic views on the economy.
“Overall, [the] outlook has dropped somewhat compared to a year ago,” Walper said. “Wealthy investors are starting to lose confidence in the overall economy.”
Affluent investors’ views on household income were modestly better month over month and year over year, according to Spectrem, while their views on their household assets and strength of their employers also declined across both periods.
The survey was also broken down by respondents’ political affiliation. Republicans tended to have a more negative outlook than Democrats, and independents generally reported views closer to those of Republicans. Democrats’ overall household outlook registered approximately 32 points on Spectrem’s scale, while Republicans reported an average outlook below 9 and independent voters just under 15.
“There’s a clear difference of opinion determined by party affiliation,” Walper said. “Overall, Republicans aren’t as optimistic as Democrats.”
Party members are most evenly split on the economy, according to Spectrem. On the scale of optimism, Democrats scored 30, while Republicans scored a negative 25. Independents scored zero (in other words, they were entirely neutral).
The products preferred by affluent investors depended on their political affiliation. While Republicans and independents were more likely than Democrats to prefer investing in stocks and stock mutual funds, Democrats were most likely to prefer not investing at all or to keep investments in cash, according to Spectrem.
The firm also said wealthy Americans’ investment plans were most likely to be impacted by stock market conditions; 32 percent of both affluent and millionaire investors named the market as the most significant impact on their decisions, followed by their retirement plans, household income and the economic environment.
The current political climate lagged as a factor for affluent and millionaire investors, named by 6 percent and 4 percent of the respondents, respectively.
“While there are differences of opinions by party when it comes to outlook, overall investor confidence is driven by what the market does,” Walper said. “Given the way folks feel about the economy right now, it’s hard to believe that confidence is going to stay at the same levels over the next few months.”
Spectrem periodically surveys between 25,000 and 30,000 wealthy American households to compose its confidence indices and outlook studies.
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