The number of affluent investors worrying about jobs and the political environment rose in February as bipartisan cooperation remains elusive in Washington and the economy struggles with high unemployment.
The proportion of affluent investors concerned about the political environment climbed to 26 percent this month, up from 7 percent the last time the question was asked in the Spectrem Group's survey in November. Fourteen percent were concerned about unemployment.
Rankling over issues such as bank regulation, tax reform and healthcare have bogged down legislation and often given the impression that President Barack Obama's administration is struggling to make headway with its agenda.
At the same time there continue to be worrying signs on the economy. Consumer sentiment unexpectedly fell to its lowest level in ten months in February, with consumers pessimistic about the job market, while a fall in new home sales to record lows in January reignited fears of housing market weakness.
Even so, the Spectrem Group's affluent investor index, which measures sentiment among investors with at least $500,000 of investable assets rose 3 points to -10 in February, turning neutral from bearish for only the second time in a year.
Chicago-based Spectrem, a consultancy which specializes in affluent and retirement markets, defines neutral as between -10 and +10 in the index, which ranges from -100 to +100.
At the same time Spectrem's millionaire investor confidence index fell 1 point in February to -10, its seventh-straight neutral reading. Millionaires were slightly less concerned about the political situation, with 25 percent citing it as a concern. Thirteen percent were concerned about jobs.
Affluent Americans became slightly more confident about investing in February as millionaires saw their confidence slip, George Walper, president of Spectrem, said in a statement. This left both groups with identical confidence readings, an unusual situation since millionaires have historically been more optimistic than the affluent.
Walper pointed to what he called a deep-seated unease among millionaires.
Spectrem's survey is based on 250 monthly interviews with the financial decision-makers in households with at least $500,000 or more in investable assets. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 6.2 percentage points.
(Reporting by Edward Krudy; Editing by Kenneth Barry)