As overseas turmoil continues, financial advisers are growing concerned about the U.S. economy and stock market, according to a benchmark from asset manager Rydex SGI.
The Advisor Confidence Index, produced by the company’s AdvisorBenchmarking unit, indicates that adviser confidence fell in March for the second month in a row.
“Although (the benchmark) had gone to a relatively positive attitude, you’re now seeing a scaling back, which is tied to events in world,” said Marc Zeitoun, head of intermediary distribution at Rydex SGI.
The index is still in positive territory, meaning that advisers remain optimistic—if only moderately so. On the Advisor Confidence Index, the number100 represents a neutral stance among advisers; the most negative mark is 33.33 and the most positive is 166.67. March adviser sentiment is 113.28, after falling 3.12% from February.
Rydex SGI’s index measures confidence in four categories, and each was down in March: “current economic outlook” fell 3.12%; “six-month economic outlook was down 5.35%; “12-month economic outlook” tumbled 5.98%, and “stock market outlook” dove 7.07%.
The index captures the sentiments of 150 independent registered investment advisers.
Why are advisers getting more pessimistic? Comments released with the March benchmark results provide some insight. George Cheatham, president of American Financial Consultants, Inc., in Columbia, Kentucky, pointed to multiple factors.
“The combination of dramatically rising fuel costs and the ongoing government protests in Africa and the Mid-East could prove to be the single quickest brake to the economic recovery, not just here but worldwide,” he said.
“An economic tsunami will roll through the global markets as various sectors attempt to calculate the Japan crisis on their business,” opined Jim Elder, principal at ElderAdo Financial, Inc., in Montrose, Colo.
Rydex SGI tracks changes in adviser attitudes so that it can create the appropriate solutions, said Zeitoun. Recent changes in sentiment might indicate increased appetite for using risk management techniques within client portfolios—an area in which Rydex SGI is well-versed due to its specialization in 40-Act alternatives, he said.
Results from the benchmarking effort, which stretches back to 1993, have helped the company create educational development programs. “One year ago, we found that a tremendous number of advisers would carve out time to learn about alternative (investments),” said Zeitoun. “So we developed an education track around alternatives.”
Also in March, Rydex SGI also surveyed advisors on their use of social media as part of their individual business practices. The results were striking: Only about a quarter of respondents were currently using Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook in their businesses.
Part of the reason may have to do with regulatory concerns. Two-thirds of the respondents said they wanted clearer SEC/FINRA guidelines pertaining to the use of social media. About 60% of advisers said they had no plans to include social media as part of their practices in the next 12 months.