U.S. Investor Optimism Highest Since Crisis as Trump Era Dawns

Moving to more of a "glass half full" view.

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It's been a month since the post-election rally in U.S. stocks stalled, but to hear high net worth investors tell it, there's only blue sky ahead as Donald Trump prepares to take office.

Almost 70 percent of respondents in a UBS Group AG survey expect "strong returns" in the stock market in the next six months, up from about 50 percent before the election, according to the bank's quarterly poll of clients. Expectations that the economy will improve over the next year reached the highest level since before the 2008 financial crisis, the report showed.

The data are the latest sign that Americans have turned optimistic about the prospects for the world's largest economy since Trump's election, with consumer confidence hovering near the highest level since 2004, and market sentiment unabashedly bullish. While the views have been tested lately -- the S&P 500 Index has barely budged since the Federal Reserve raised interest rates Dec. 14 -- UBS says the sunny outlook can push the market higher.

"Awash in new confidence, many wealthy investors feel ready to deploy cash and are actively hunting for investment opportunities," UBS wrote in a note to clients Wednesday after surveying 2,025 investors with at least $1 million in assets between Dec. 20 and Dec. 27. "If cash moves off the sidelines and business investment increases, it will be a sure sign that many investors like the early direction of the new administration."

It's not just Trump's supporters that are optimistic either. Here's a breakdown from the report:

Respondents predicated their outlook on expectations that Trump and the Republican-led Congress can end the gridlock that has characterized federal government and enact policies that boost business investment, UBS said. 

"Investors cited Trump's pro-business policies - including lower personal and corporate taxes - expectations for less regulation and increased infrastructure spending, which they believe will spur U.S. economic growth, as the primary sources of their optimism," the note said.

The report underpins a shift in investor sentiment from before the election, captured in Wall Street strategist forecasts. The majority of their outlooks for this year rose after the election and hinge on whether Trump can push through his policy proposals. 

Surveys by brokerage firm Charles Schwab Corp. also show the change. Before Trump's win, investors were pessimistic about what he would mean for their portfolios and the economy. According to the first survey, taken Oct. 20  and Oct. 21, almost 60 percent believed Trump would be bad for the economy in the short term.

Three weeks later, in a survey taken Nov. 9 through Nov. 11, only 48 percent said his policies would have be harmful. 

The same shift happened when investors were asked about their portfolios. Before the election, 57 percent said Trump would have a negative impact and only 22 percent said he would have a positive impact. 

After, 49 percent had a negative outlook while 30 percent held more positive views. 

While one might say that investors simply took the market's move higher as their change in near term views, the S&P 500 rose only 1 percent in the three days of the second survey.

 

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