Economy & Markets

Over 90% of U.S. investors say energy prices hurting investment climate

By James Langton |

The UBS/Gallop Index of Investor Optimism finds that U.S. investor sentiment remains at a low point for the year.

The index reading for May is essentially flat from April, up one point, although this remains down 29 points since the beginning of 2006. Concerns among investors include rising interest rates, the value of the U.S. dollar and the softening housing market.

47% of respondents feel that the current level of interest rates is hurting them, up from 40% in March. 63% said that they are concerned that the value of the dollar against other currencies will unfavorably affect the investment climate, up eight points from March. A clear majority of respondents, 63%, feel that the softening housing market is harming the investment climate.

Of particular concern to investors is the continued rise in energy prices, UBS notes. 92% of investors believe that energy prices are negatively affecting the U.S. investment climate, a reading that has held steady since March. Investors are clearly feeling the pinch at the pump and expect to continue to pay more for gasoline, it notes. Respondents believe the price will continue to rise by 10% over the next three months.

“Investors are approaching the markets with caution and are readjusting their financial holdings to respond to current economic conditions and concerns over the direction of future policy changes,” said Mike Ryan, Head of UBS Wealth Management Research. “Because of the rise in energy prices, 14% of investors tell us that they are increasing their holdings in utility companies, and another 18% are shifting money into cash or CDs.”

Although investors are cautious about the economy, they expect to reap a healthy double-digit average return of 13.6% on their investment portfolios over the next 12 months. And investors continue to believe in the financial markets, with six in 10 responding that now is a good time to invest in the financial markets, unchanged from April and only slightly down from the first three months of 2006.

The survey was conducted May 1-14. The sampling included 803 investors randomly selected from across the country. For this study, the American investor is defined as any person who is head of a household or a spouse in any household with total savings and investments of $10,000 or more. The sampling error in the results is plus or minus four percentage points.