International investors are the most bullish on stocks in at least 3 1/2 years, with close to two- thirds planning to raise their holdings of equities during the next six months, according to a Bloomberg survey.

As the global financial and business elite gather in Davos for their annual forum, 53 percent of respondents to the Bloomberg Global Poll also say equities will offer the highest return in the next year. That’s a 17 percentage point jump from the last poll in November and the most since the quarterly survey of investors, analysts and traders who subscribe to Bloomberg began in July 2009.

Behind the enthusiasm for shares: growing confidence in the U.S. economy and ebbing concerns about Europe. America is in its best shape in two years, according to the poll, with a majority of the 921 surveyed on Jan. 17 describing the economy as improving. In a sign the euro-area’s three-year debt crisis is easing, only 45 percent said the region’s economy is still deteriorating, down from seven in 10 two months ago.

“There does appear to be some cautious optimism that things are slowly being resolved,” Ben Kelly, an equity analyst at Louis Capital Markets in London and a poll participant, said in an e-mail. “There are some positive shoots that people are grabbing on to.”


The signs of greater confidence in the economic and equity outlook lend an upbeat tone to this week’s five-day gathering in Davos, Switzerland of 2,500 executives, policy makers, investors and academics. Delegates include German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, both of whom won praise in the poll. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein and billionaire investor George Soros will also be there.

“There’s a great sense of relief we dodged a lot of bullets in 2012 -- we didn’t go off the fiscal cliff in the U.S., Europe didn’t have a meltdown and China didn’t have a hard landing,” said Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at IHS Inc. in Lexington, Massachusetts, who will be in Davos. “There are definitely pockets of good news with recoveries in North America and parts of Asia gathering momentum.”

U.S. economic activity picked up across much of the country last month, boosted by automobile and home sales, the Federal Reserve said on Jan. 16 in its Beige Book survey of business conditions.

U.S. Effect

The improvement in the U.S. is having a “positive effect throughout the world,” according to Sriram Srinivasan, chief executive officer of Wall Street Investment Management in Chantilly, Virginia, and a poll respondent.