Affluent Households Pull Out of Neutral

CHICAGO (HedgeWorld.com)--The Spectrem Group said that the investment outlook traced by its "affluent index" (based on a survey of households with US$500,000 or more in assets) gained four points in January, putting it in mildly bullish territory.

On a scale ranging from positive 30 to negative 30, neutral terrain ranges from positive 10 to negative 10. The affluent investor index was in neutral for most of 2005. After a historic low of minus 6 in October 2005, it was at plus 4 in November 2005, up to 8 in December, and broke through out of neutrality to 12 in January 2006.

Likewise, the millionaire index, which measures the mood of households with US$1,000,000 or more in investable assets, has risen in each of the last three months, reaching 22 in the latest survey, its highest level since June 2004. Its all-time high was 25, in April 2004.

"Affluent investors have finally returned to a mildly bullish outlook, after spending almost all of last year languishing in neutral territory," said George H. Walper Jr., president of Spectrem Group, in a statement. "While this is certainly positive news on its face, it is stronger still given the impressive surge our affluent index has made since late last year."

Responding to an open-ended question about the biggest threat to household financial goals, the largest group of the affluent cited the economy (13%), then stock market conditions (12%), then household cash flow (9%). The view of the narrower millionaire group was similar. Its members cited the economy (13%), then stock market conditions (10%), then low investment returns (8%) and retirement (8%).

Interestingly, petroleum prices have dropped out of the worry list. Eight percent of the affluent in September 2005 and 6% of the millionaires that month mentioned fuel costs. In December, 4% of the affluent and 3% of the millionaires did so. In January, nobody in either group seems to have brought up that issue.

Spectrem Group is a strategic consulting firm specializing in the affluent and retirement markets, integrating proprietary research with expertise in building business, marketing, and acquisition strategies.

Contact Bob Keane with questions or comments at bkeane@investmentadvisor.com.

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