(Bloomberg) — More than three-quarters of Americans say the five-year bull market in U.S. stocks has had little or no effect on their financial well-being, according to a Bloomberg National Poll.
Seventy-seven percent of respondents dismissed the 176 percent rise in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index since its March 9, 2009 financial crisis low, according to the poll, taken March 7-10. Barely one in five — 21 percent — said the market’s gains have made them “feel more financially” secure.
“I don’t think there’s anything real behind it,” said David Skelly, 47, a policeman in Kankakee, Ill. “It’s just an artificial boom.”
The poll shows that most Americans still think the country is on the wrong track; fewer people than in Bloomberg’s December poll expect the economy or job market to strengthen over the next 12 months; and President Barack Obama gets little credit for what gains there have been.
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By 56 percent to 23 percent, respondents credit private companies rather than Obama’s economic policies for the stock market’s rise. Skelly, who along with his wife, a community college counselor, has money in the market through retirement plans, mutual funds and individual stocks, objects to the asset-buying program carried out by the Federal Reserve since 2008.
“We’re printing money like it’s going out of style,” he said.
The poll’s findings reflect the concentration of financial assets among better-off Americans. About half of Americans own stock, either directly or through retirement accounts, according to the Fed’s 2010 Survey of Consumer Finances.
Stock ownership that year fell to levels not seen “since the late-1990s,” the Fed said. Even those who participate in financial markets through 401(k) retirement plans often have only modest sums invested. Half of Fidelity Investments customers have less than $25,600 in their 401(k) accounts, according to Michael Shamrell, a spokesman.
“I’m not invested in the stock market, never have been,” said Rich Gleason, 61, of Suttons Bay, Mich., whose floor- covering business failed amid the 2008 credit crunch. “That’s somebody else’s game.”
Wealthier Americans have a greater share of their assets invested in the stock market, while middle-income households have more of their wealth tied up in their homes. ‘Little benefit’
The wealthiest 10 percent of families earn 11 percent of their annual income from capital gains, interest and dividends, according to the Fed. The poorest three-quarters get less than 0.5 percent of their income from such sources.
“Many moderate- and middle-income households have seen little benefit from recent stock market gains and are still grappling with the implications of home prices that, despite recent progress, remain well below their previous highs,” the White House economic team wrote in a March 10 blog post.