More than three-quarters of 401(k) plan participants, or 77%, expect the U.S. stock market to improve or to at least fare at the same levels of 2002, according to a survey of 615 401(k) investors by Amvescap Retirement. Only 36% expect an uptick in the markets this year.

Nonetheless, 33% said they will increase their 401(k) contribution rate in 2003, and 54% said they would not change their contribution levels. Sixty-six percent said their 401(k) is their primary retirement savings vehicle.

The survey also found that 47% are investing in conservative instruments, and 39% are investing in moderate instruments.

With "87% of respondents say[ing] they intend to increase or maintain their contributions in 2003, the results of the survey indicate that participants value employer-provided 401(k) plans," said Hubert L. Harris, chairman and chief executive officer of Amvescap Retirement. "Participants are resilient and learning that education is more important than ever in helping them achieve retirement security," added Bob Benish, director of participant services at Amvescap.

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