Ultra-affluent investors are increasing their exposure to alternative investments at the expense of the U.S. stock market, according to the Institute for Private Investors 13th annual Family Performance Tracking survey, released Thursday.

In this year’s survey, 48% of respondents reported plans to increase their allocation to commodities in 2012, while 45% said they would up their investment in real estate.

Continuing a trend from last year favoring international investment, 44% said they planned to increase their holdings in global equities. More than a third of respondents (36%) said they would decrease their cash holdings, contrary to conventional wisdom given the state of the U.S. market.

The survey was conducted in November among IPI member families, who have minimum investible assets of $30 million. Four in 10 of the families have assets of $200 million or more.

Other findings in this year’s survey:

  • More than half of families (55%) said they were looking to increase direct investments in private companies.
  • Investors reported being increasingly bullish on tangible assets such as gold, land and artwork, in addition to commercial and residential real estate.
  • Investors expect an average return of 4.9% for their overall portfolio in 2011, compared with an average return of 11.3% in 2010, but considerably higher than the total return of the S&P 500 index in 2011 (2.1% inclusive of dividends).
  • Investor outlook for the overall market in the coming year was more positive, with respondents expecting the S&P to return an average of 6.4% in 2012.

IPI is an independent U.S. subsidiary of Campden Wealth, a global education, news, research and conferences business with offices in London, Singapore and New York.