September 17, 2015

Survey: Confidence in U.S. Capital Markets Holds Up Despite Growing Doubts About Overseas Markets

Millennial Investors Worry About Cybersecurity, Paying Off Debt, Finds CAQ Survey

Washington, DC - While U.S. retail investors continue to have robust confidence in U.S. capital markets, they are increasingly leery of those abroad, according to the Center for Audit Quality’s (CAQ) 2015 Main Street Investor Survey

According to the survey, 73 percent of Main Street investors have confidence in U.S capital markets, holding steady from 2014 levels and up 12 percentage points from the post-crisis low. This confidence cuts across generations and geography.

By contrast, confidence in non-U.S. capital markets decreased from 2014, edging closer to the lowest level recorded since 2007, the year the CAQ began the survey.

“Our 2015 survey results paint a fascinating picture of the American retail investor," said CAQ Executive Director Cindy Fornelli. "Despite sometimes nerve-wracking fluctuations in the marketplace, our survey shows that U.S. investor confidence is resilient, a positive sign given the importance of financial markets as engines of capital formation and economic growth."

The top-cited reasons by investors for their confidence were a general positive view of the strength of the U.S. market system, recent good experiences with personal investments, and the historical stability of the U.S. markets. 

When asked how much confidence they have in a number of different entities when it comes to effectiveness in looking out for investors’ interests, investors expressed the most trust in independent auditors (76%), financial advisors and brokers (73%), and independent audit committees (71%).

Those with little or no confidence in U.S markets pointed to a lack of leadership across the political spectrum, a general impression that the economy is not doing well, and perceptions of corporate greed or a growing gap between rich or poor.

Millennials: Many Similarities but Several Noteworthy Divergences

With the theme of the "Investor of the Future," this year's Main Street Investor Survey highlights attitudes among millennial investors – those between the ages of 18 and 34. 

In many respects, the views of these younger investors mirrored those of previous generations when it comes to confidence in U.S. capital markets, publicly held companies, and the role of key players in corporate governance, financial reporting, and investment advice. 

However, millennials' viewpoints diverged from others in notable and statistically significant ways. For example, these younger investors said that paying off debt was a higher priority for them than investing or saving. They also are more attuned to emerging risks such as cybersecurity threats.

The national telephone survey of 1,012 investors with investments valued at $10,000 or more was conducted July 26 to August 6, 2015. It has a margin of error of +/-3.1 percent.

Other key findings include:

  • Confidence investing in U.S. companies that are publicly traded remained high (78%).
  • Three-quarters of investors said they have confidence in their ability to make successful financial decisions in today’s market environment.
  • Almost four in 10 (38%) of investors said “too much government regulation” is the biggest threat to their investment portfolio. 
  • Not being able to afford health care if they or a family member is seriously ill or injured was cited most frequently by investors as the biggest threat to their financial well-being (32% for all investors, versus 25% for millennials).

Survey Resources

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The Center for Audit Quality (CAQ) is an autonomous public policy organization dedicated to enhancing investor confidence and public trust in the global capital markets. The CAQ fosters high quality performance by public company auditors, convenes and collaborates with other stakeholders to advance the discussion of critical issues requiring action and intervention, and advocates policies and standards that promote public company auditors’ objectivity, effectiveness and responsiveness to dynamic market conditions. Based in Washington, DC, with an office in New York, NY, the CAQ is affiliated with the American Institute of CPAs. For more information, visit www.thecaq.org.