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W&AM Insights: Positive Economic Outlook Declined Sharply in March 2020

March 31, 2020

Economic Outlook

After seeing steady positive results in late 2019 and early 2020, the W&AM Economic Optimism trend line dropped notably in March 2020, falling to record low levels among both HNW and Mass Affluent investors.  Following a previous four-month average (November to February) of 77% among HNW, W&AM Economic Optimism in March 2020 fell to 32%.  Similarly, after four-month average of 69%, March 2020 W&AM Economic Optimism among Mass Affluent respondents decreased to 26%.

Investing Outlook

The W&AM Investment Optimism rating declined across both audiences as well, particularly with Mass Affluent investors, who reported a 12% lower likelihood of increasing their investments in the next three months compared to February.  Among HNW investors, W&AM Investment Optimism fell slightly from 48% to 45% in March 2020.  In turn, both groups indicated a higher likelihood to make no changes to their overall investments in the next three months.

Perspective

The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic is clearly impacting the mindset of investors, as indicated by the sharp declines seen this month in the W&AM Economic Optimism trend line, and has resulted in unprecedented pessimism among both HNW and Mass Affluent investors.  Understandably, the wide-ranging economic impact of Coronavirus is top-of-mind to affluent consumers, as cases grew exponentially in the US during March 2020.  Just before, and during, this month’s data collection major events included the ban on inbound travel from Europe, the World Health Organization’s official “pandemic” declaration, a national emergency announcement, state-level lockdown orders, and more.  Despite this notable drop in optimism, affluent investors appear prepared to ride out the bear market, as indicated by 65% of Mass Affluent and 53% of HNW respondents planning to not make any investment changes in the upcoming three-month period.  It remains to be seen how long-lasting of an effect the latest COVID-19 events will have on the US economic outlook, but for now, it has certainly had a large impact on affluent investor sentiment.

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