Despite economic challenges - such as rising healthcare costs, the federal budget deficit and soaring energy prices - affluent investors with at least $100,000 in financial assets have an optimistic outlook toward the investment climate for the next six months, mostly due to the fact that 50% of them believe it is currently better than it was a year ago, according to the Citigroup Smith Barney's "Affluent Investor Poll," conducted by Mathew Greenwald & Associates of Washington and Synovate of Chicago.

Between Dec. 8 and Dec. 13, Greenwald interviewed 577 investors online who are members of the Synovate consumer opinion panel. Most predicted that energy and technology will be the fastest and strongest growing sectors over the next year. They also identified healthcare and real estate as areas with potential for growth.

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