Advisors' confidence in the economy and the stock market regressed slightly -- about a quarter of point -- to an aggregate score of 113.54 in April, according to the Advisor Confidence Index (ACI), a benchmark that takes the pulse of 150 registered independent advisors and their outlook for both the U.S. economy and stock market.
The data mirrors similar concerns and apprehension expressed earlier this month by high net worth investors who also see inflation, general economic instability around the globe and rising oil prices as the biggest threats to the U.S. economy's fledgling recovery.
The 113.54 score means most advisors characterize their overall outlook as somewhere between "neutral" and "positive," with 100 points representing dead neutral and 133.33 points marking the beginning of positive territory.
The ACI dipped more than 5 points in February and March and April's figures represent the third-consecutive month of declining advisor confidence after the index peaked at a four-year high of 123 in January.
Along with surging oil prices and the economic implications of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan, advisors are wringing their hands over rising prices across multiple sectors and volatility abroad.
Still, faced with the disconcerting prospect of rising inflation and a weak U.S. dollar, most advisors are convinced U.S. equities are still the best investment alternative in the long run.
"We could be setting up for some near-term negative volatility in the equity markets, the European market in particular," said Gregory Horn of Persimmon Capital Management. "For the long term, however, the trend for equities relative to bonds should remain positive."
RIAs' confidence in the stock market declined almost 4 points in April -- mostly a reflection of likely profit-taking in the midst of the current bull run -- but interestingly their confidence in the economy as whole over the next six months was up 2.72% even though their outlook for the next full year was essentially flat.
"One would expect interest rates to finally rise, especially in light of higher inflation expectations," Kenjol Capital Management's Kenny Landgraf said in the survey. "Cash is not compelling. Bonds are not compelling. Where do you go with potential higher inflation? The answer is equities and commodities."