The Advisor Confidence Index in September continued a marked slide begun in June. As reasons for their pessimism, planners pointed to instability in the Middle East and uncertainty around the Federal Reserve’s plans for ending its quantitative-easing campaign.
WealthManagement.com’s latest ACI, based on a survey of around 150 mainly RIA-based advisors, fell about 1% from 116.9 in August to 115.7 in September. The gauge began the year at 123.0. An ACI reading above 100 is generally positive; anything below that mark points to pervasively negative sentiment.
Two of the ACI’s four components declined last month, with the view on the U.S. stock market six months out (down 3.5%) leading the way. The view on the present state of the economy was down only 0.5%. The other two components, views on the U.S. economy six and 12 months in the future, were unchanged.
The written-comment portion of the latest ACI survey makes for gloomy reading. “We have had an unprecedented run of the central bank printing money,” writes Paul Bennett of United Capital Private Wealth Counseling near Washington, D.C. “As a result, the correlation between the Fed’s balance sheet growth and the growth of the S&P is of great concern.” For Roger Willroth of Marrs Wealth Management in Ames, Iowa, “mid-term elections, geopolitical concerns, ending of quantitative easing and the specter of rising interest rates” mean “the stock market will be going nowhere fast, with a lot of volatility” in coming months. Bleaker still, Mark Carlton of Trademark Financial Management in Edina, Minn., sees markets starting “to roll over ahead of a recession in the second half of 2015.”
A rare sunny view comes from Jonathan Foster at Angeles Wealth Management in Santa Monica, Calif., who sees a continuing recovery as cash-rich corporations rush “to deploy this underperforming asset, helping the economic snowball grow and increase in power as it rolls downhill.” His message to investors: “Buy equities today.”
Meanwhile, sentiment among well-off investors surged last month. Spectrem Group’s latest Affluent Investor Confidence Index, gleaned from interviews with “financial decision makers” in households with at least $500,000 in liquid assets, gained eight points in September for a reading of 13 — a height it hasn’t attained since February 2006. “Affluent investors report being anxious to emerge from the sidelines and reengage in the market,” Spectrem’s president George Walper Jr. said in a press release.
But this result may not impress advisors who consider the AICI a contrarian indicator.