For most of the past two years, people in the mass-affluent investor segment have been more pessimistic than optimistic on their near-term economic outlooks. For 2012, the gap between the bulls and the bears was at its widest, and getting wider, at the most recent measurement from late August to early September (chart below). The pessimists clocked in at 60% of the total, nearly matching the high-water mark of 67% posted in October 2011. The differences between these two camps are illustrated by the chart on the bottom of the page, which shows negative numbers when pessimists outnumber their sunnier counterparts, and positive when optimists rule the day. Mass affluent was defined in the study as those investors with $250,000 to $999,999 in investable assets. They were asked about their economic views for the next three months.

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