NU Online News Service, Jan. 27, 12:01 p.m. – Many rich U.S. residents agree that the economy is bad, but most believe it will improve over the next 12 months, according to results of a survey by Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, New York.

The researchers who conducted the survey, which was sponsored by the McDonald Financial Group, Cleveland, based the results on interviews in December 2002 and early January with 400 U.S. residents who have at least $500,000 in investable assets or annual incomes of at least $150,000.

Almost half of the respondents say the United States is in a recession, but 79% expect the economy to stay the same or improve over the next three months.

Eighty-three percent of the respondents say they are confident about the future of the stock market, and 52% predict the S&P 500 stock index will rise in the next three months.

McDonald Financial is using the survey data to develop a new, quarterly index that will measure the confidence of affluent consumers.

The initial index score is 41 out of 100, with scores of 50 suggesting that affluent consumers are neutral about the economy, scores over 50 indicating optimism and scores under 50 indicating pessimism.

Participants in the Midwest are the most confident, with an index score of 47, while participants in the California are the least confident, with an index of score of 32. The score for the South is 45, and the score for the Northeast is 38.

McDonald Financial is a unit of KeyCorp, Cleveland.