Where the Bears Aren't

Bears are tough to find this year at the Impact 2010 investor conference — those who will admit to it, anyway.

Rose | Mueller | Stock4B | Getty Images

Speaker after speaker and interview after interview reveal financial advisors who see positive times ahead for the markets despite all the headwinds out there like unemployment, housing and a decided lack of market participation by retail investors.

The running of the bulls started early — late Tuesday afternoon, shortly after I arrived, there was a lively session, narrated by CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo, with Liz Ann Sonders, chief investment strategist at event-sponsor Charles Schwab, and Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investors.

Hobson was almost wildly bullish, suggesting investors weight their portfolios 70 percent with equities, with the vast concentration in large-caps. It seemed a really daring position considering the uncertain flux in the markets.

So in the interest of making sure I wasn’t misunderstanding, I approached Hobson later and asked if there was anything that kept her up at night that might thwart her hopes for the market.

“A terrorist attack,” she said flatly, briefly elaborating that the market had weathered a series of storms and is a safe place to put money.

What I find interesting, though, is that while most of the presenters and the folks hawking various and sundry swag at the Impact expo booths are staunchly bullish, all of the rank-and-file investment advisors I’ve chatted up have been the opposite.

A financial adviser I spoke to Tuesday night from Minneapolis said she expected the market to dive in January, while another I chatted with Wednesday from Richmond, Va., expressed doubts as well.

Tom Meyer, of Meyer Capital Management, who pitches an alternative investment portfolio, said he worries about market “lemmings” who will get hurt following the crowd and not having downside protection.

The wariness of the market seemed to be the behind-the-scenes theme at Impact, even if the mainstage is offering something else.


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