- The Washington Times - Monday, February 24, 2003

LONDON, Feb. 24 (UPI) — UBS and the Gallup Organization said Monday optimism among individual investors in the five largest European Union countries fell to a new low in February as the prospect of war against Iraq dominated all other political and economic issues.

UBS and the Gallup said its European index of investor optimism sank 10 points to 37 in February — its lowest level since it began the index in October 2001.

The report showed investors' growing concerns about the financial markets' outlook and the ability to achieve their investment targets over the next 12 months were primarily responsible for the decline in the index.

UBS and the Gallup said this month, 61 percent of the investors polled reported they were pessimistic about the performance of the stock markets over the coming year, compared with 52 percent in January.

The report also showed 63 percent of those surveyed said now is not a good time to invest — the highest level measured since the survey began.

Among European investors in the five largest EU countries — France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom — a potential war in Iraq was viewed as the most important threat to global stock markets, with 60 percent of those polled sharing this view.

The report also showed that 16 percent of those polled said the possibility of major terrorist attacks was the most important threat to global stock markets and 13 percent said a prolonged economic downturn.

UBS and Gallup said 28 percent of the investors polled said they believed a war with Iraq will have an extremely negative impact on global stock markets, and an additional 43 percent said they believe a war would have a somewhat negative effect.

The polled also showed 16 percent of those questioned anticipate a war with Iraq will have a positive impact on the markets, and 10 percent expect no significant impact.

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