The Ultra-Rich Are Ready to Go Back to Stocks
It won’t come as news that the wealthy are pessimistic about the economy, the government and taxes.
But here’s a surprising bright spot: the majority of the ultra-wealthy plan to buy more stocks in the next 12 months. In fact, stocks beat out all other asset classes when it comes to where the rich plan to put their money in 2012.
A new study from Spectrem Group, which polled people worth $25 million or more (not including primary residence) found that 62 percent planned to invest in stocks over the next 12 months. That compares with 38 percent who plan to buy more fixed income, 19 percent buying treasuries and 26 percent who plan to invest in hedge funds.
This could be a strong potential support for the stock market, since the richest one percent of Americans own more than half of the individually held stocks in the country. The respondents in the survey hold an average of $7 million in stocks. (Read more: Ultra-Rich Spend More on Vacations, Less on Bling)
This is not to say that they’re maximum bullish – or even moderate bullish. The survey showed that less than half (42 percent) said the economy has turned the corner and will improve over the next six months. Their top national concern is the “security and well being of our country,” followed by the “political situation,” and the upcoming elections.
The economy ranked fourth, followed by taxes and the stock market.
The group still holds more of their wealth in private companies than they do in public stocks – which doesn’t bode well for faith in the stock market. They hold 17 percent of their assets in private companies – up from 7 percent in 2010. Their stock holdings have fallen to less than 10 percent. (Read more: How Rich You Are Depends on Your Age)
So why are the rich buying stocks even if they’re pessimistic about the economy?
George Walper, president of Spectrem, says researchers didn't ask the rich how much money they plan to put into stocks – just whether they planned to buy.
"This group is always investing in equities, so this just continues that trend," he said.
But their appetite for stocks is also being driven by returns.
Bonds and money-markets are dead money right now. As a group, the super-rich are highly aggressive when it comes to return on their money. The survey found that more than 62 percent want annual returns or 9 percent or more. Fully 64 percent said they expected to do better than the stock market. And nearly three quarters said taking risk was important to creating their wealth.
That need for yield is driving many into stocks, as well as hedge funds and other alternatives.
-By CNBC's Robert Frank
Follow Robert Frank on Twitter: @robtfrank