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Net Net: Promoting innovation and managing change

Most Americans clueless about market performance

Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
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Most Americans don't realize the stock market gained 30 percent last year, and only 1 in 9 call themselves savvy about investing, according to a recent survey.

Gallup found that 37 percent of those polled believe the market increased 10 percent in 2013, a year in which the total return was 32 percent. Just 7 percent recognized the 30 percent gain, and 9 percent thought stocks actually decreased.

Those results mesh with a general distrust of the market. Given the choice of what to do with an extra $10,000 in cash, 41 percent said they would put it in the market, but 36 percent opted for cash and 20 percent chose a near-zero yielding certificate of deposit.

The sample audience wasn't exactly random, either: The Wells Fargo/Gallup Investor and Retirement Optimism Index poll asked questions of investors with at least $10,000 in stocks, bonds, mutual funds or in retirement programs such as a 401(k) or IRA.

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Only 16 percent of respondents said they were "not nervous at all" about stock investments, while 11 percent classified themselves as "extremely nervous" and 34 percent as "somewhat nervous."

As for market savvy, the results showed a low level of sophistication. Just 11 percent classified themselves as "highly knowledgeable," while 36 percent were "somewhat knowledgeable" and 33 percent responded "not that knowledgeable" about stocks.

They're a hopeful group, though: Over the next 12 months, 46 percent said they are optimistic, while just 26 percent said they were "pessimistic" about stock performance.

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—By CNBC's Jeff Cox