They love him. They loathe him. The Great Recession is over. There's still no sign of the recession's end. Things are only getting better. Things couldn't get worse.
That basically sums up the mixed sentiment of most of the financial advisors polled earlier this year by investment management firm Brinker Capital to get a sense of how they feel President Obama and his administration navigated and managed -- or not -- the U.S. economy and government fiscal policy last year and what to expect in 2011.
The Berwyn, Pa.-based firm's Brinker Barometer queried 310 financial advisors working for insurance companies, independent broker-dealers or for themselves back in February and March of this year and portends to offer an anecdotal "gauge of financial advisor confidence and sentiment regarding the economy, retirement savings, investing and market performance."
But the data suggests that the Brinker barometric pressure is rising and falling at the same time.
For example, even though the stock market has enjoyed a phenomenal run for more than year with the Dow, NASDAQ and S&P 500 all up more than 20% over this period, 74% of respondents said they believe the Obama administration's efforts to avert a recession have failed.
Yet, 52% of these same financial advisors said they believe the U.S. is out of a recession. Which of course means that 48% still aren't seeing the proof they need to declare the Great Recession over despite what financial and government pundits have been saying for more than two years.
Similarly, 65% of advisors polled said they expect the financial markets to perform better in the second half of Obama's term than they did in the first two years and only 16% were predicting the market would perform worse in the next two years.
"On the heels of two historically strong years for the financial markets, the bar has been set high for 2011 at a time when the U.S. is still searching for answers that will lift us from the recession," Brinker Capital President John Coyne said in the report. "Financial Advisors were generally optimistic about the near-term, yet the Administration came under fire, this time for falling short on solutions to restore the U.S. economy."
When asked whether Obama's policies have best served the U.S. or global economies, 74% said "neither," 14% said "both" and 8% thought the U.S. was the best served by the administration's policies.
Unemployment was cited by 98% of respondents as the factor most responsible for stifling the U.S. economy's growth, followed by the Obama administration itself (63%) and excessive government regulation (56%).
When it came to regulation, particularly the looming implications of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act, 65% said they don't think the reform intended by the legislation will be meaningful.
Yet, again in somewhat contradictory fashion, 47% of advisors think the bill will restore transparency and credibility on Wall Street.
Brinker Capital offered up a pair of anonymous responses that exemplify this confliction.
"There is so much that is uncertain that I have advised clients to stay liquid or in stocks," one financial advisor said. "Regulations are affecting the bottom lines of all companies in some way."
Meanwhile, a colleague said "for those clients that will actually pay attention to it, the (Dodd-Frank) bill will give them some confidence that another financial meltdown may be averted in the future."
Speaking of meltdowns, 51% of advisors are predicting the next bubble to burst will be the precious metals market.
Finally, 87% said they would favor putting their clients into lower-minimum alternative investments and most believe the energy and technology sectors will thrive in 2011 while consumer discretionary firms and funds will struggle.