High gas prices, the federal deficit and high unemployment are depressing investor confidence, an investor survey conducted by Gallup for Wells Fargo shows.

The index fell 21% from 42 in February to 33 in May. While the index was soaring at 95 in May 2007, it hit an all-time low of -64 in February 2009 at the start of the financial crisis, when the stock market was tanking.

The top three concerns concerning the investing climate of the 1,099 respondents surveyed were the price of energy (79%), the federal deficit (75%) and unemployment (67%).

Among workers, the drop in optimism was even more significant; that index fell 31% from 35 in February to 24 in May. Retirees, however, remained steady in both the February and May polls, with a reading of 61.

David Carroll, head of Wells Fargo’s wealth, brokerage and retirement business, said the decline in workers’ outlook was startling. Unemployment, stagnant wages and rising costs for everyday items are probably at the root of that concern, he said. Retirees, on the other hand, may feel more settled if they have a pension and Social Security that they feel they can rely on.

“You have 45-year-olds struggling with the day-to-day cost of living and an outlook where they don’t have high confidence,” Carroll said.

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