While 52% of registered investment advisors say a double-dip recession in the next six month is unlikely, their clients are nonetheless looking to reduce expense, cut back on discretionary spending and making more conservative investment choices, according to Charles Schwab’s 10th semi-annual Independent Outlook Study released Wednesday.

The study, which queried more than 900 RIAs in February and March, found that 37% of advisors were bullish on the investment markets, 22% considered themselves bearish and the remaining 41% rode the fence.

Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they expect the S&P 500 to rally in the next six months, down from 77% who felt the same way in January.

The survey, which was concluded before Standard & Poor’s downgraded the U.S. sovereign debt rating following a drawn out and contentious debt ceiling debate in Congress, sheds some light on how advisors and their clients felt about a number of key economic and market indicators before this summer’s volatile trading sessions.

“Clients turn to their advisors as trusted guides in difficult markets," Bernie Clark, executive vice president and head of Schwab Advisor Services, said in the report. “More than 90% of the advisors surveyed reported winning new assets during the past six months, and we know that RIAs who custody with Schwab report a client retention rate of 97%.”

“Their reasoned perspective and steady approach will provide clients with thoughtful choices as we move ahead,” he added.

Fifty-eight percent of advisors said they think inflation will increase in the next six months, compared to only 42% last July. Perhaps more concerning, 39% said they expect the nation’s unemployment rate to increase, up dramatically from 17% in January.

The Schwab survey revealed that the number of clients needing reassurance about meeting their investment goals remained unchanged since January at 23%.

Thirty-two percent of advisors said they’re more likely to invest in domestic large caps right while 21% said they prefer emerging markets large caps and 17% are keen on large cap developed market funds and stocks.

Fifteen percent of advisors intend to hold more cash in the short term and 12% expect to invest more in bonds.

And when it comes to their clients, advisors report that 41% of their clients are reducing expenses overall -- from 34% in January -- and only 8% are spending money on discretionary items – down precipitously from 22% in January.

Almost half of all clients (46%) are neither adding to nor taking withdrawals from their portfolios and, more telling, only one in five is adding new money.

Dave Lindorff writes for Financial Planning.

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