Amid stock market gyrations, stagnant employment numbers and uncertainty about interest rates, a significant majority of online investors polled by the Web-based brokerage TradeKing are still counting on the U.S. to lend horsepower to a global economic recovery.
Seventy-one percent of TradeKing's responding clients said they believe the Standard & Poor's 500 index will rise between 5% and 20% by yearend, compared with about 66% who said they believed the same thing in January.
TradeKing surveyed 3,000 clients via e-mail in late April.
Among those who thought they would get tax refunds, 26% said they would use the money to further invest in the stock market.
Just 18% said they would use the money to help pay down personal debt, and 17% said they plan to save their refunds.
In April 2008, after taxpayers received federal stimulus dollars, a quarter of the respondents said they favored using the proceeds to pay down their debt, compared with 20% who said they would put the money into a brokerage account.
Some of this came as a surprise to Don Montanaro, TradeKing's chairman and chief executive.
"What we see playing out in this topsy-turvy market, is a fairly xenophobic view of the market, a U.S.-centric view," Montanaro said.
None of the findings suggest that investors are detached from the realities of the market, however.
Actually, 45% of respondents said that unemployment claims and interest rates in particular are their top trade-triggers to watch closely over the next three months.
Investors said they believe that the Federal Reserve would only raise interest rates if it thinks the economy can withstand the change without going into a so-called double-dip recession.
"That is the ultimate vote of confidence," Montanaro said.
"They'll see that as a bullish indicator."
For the near term, 40% of all respondents said they are taking a "neutral" position on the market for the next three months, meaning they are taking stock of various indicators and headlines before executing trading tactics.