High-net-worth investors and business owners are holding out hope for the long-term future of the U.S. economy, but feelings about life in the short term are sinking, according to two surveys by UBS released today.

The UBS Investor Watch Pulse surveys showed that many investors are looking for opportunities to buy and that business owners still hope to hire staff later this year if the economy stabilizes. The surveys, taken in late March, included 1,004 investors with at least $1 million in investable assets and 502 business owners with at least $250,000 in annual revenues and at least one employee other than themselves.

Long-term investor optimism on the economy remained high at 77% in late March, unchanged from early March and up from 66% in January.

However, COVID-19 is now investors’ top concern, with 70% highly worried, up from 50% in early March, the survey said. Concern about market volatility also has increased sharply to 59%, up from 46% in early March.

"Both business owners and individual investors are understandably worried about conditions today, but 77% of investors are optimistic about the U.S. economy over the longer term,” said Filippo Ilardi, U.S. client strategy officer at UBS Global Wealth Management, in a statement. “Not only are they keeping a cool head, but nearly a third are looking for opportunities in this market. Investors' resilience suggests there may be a good foundation for recovery once the coronavirus pandemic subsides."

Comparing early to late March, fewer investors said they think COVID-19 will subside by the end of June and more think the issue will persist at least until the end of 2020, although just under half think it will subside by the middle of the year, according to the survey.

Only 26% of investors thought there would be a recession this year in January, but that number jumped to 69% by the end of March, seeming to contradict the level of long-term optimism the investors also expressed.

Thirty-four percent of high-net-worth investors said they plan to buy stocks now, while 42% are going to wait for stocks to go even lower. Only 24% said they would not buy now because it is a bear market. At the same time, 58% said they do not intend to change their portfolio mix.

For business owners, 58% said they are still optimistic about the U.S. economy, a decrease from the 69% who were optimistic in early March. Similarly, 66% said they are optimistic about their own business, down from 71% in early March.

A bare majority, 51%, think the virus will subside by the end of June, but the percentage who expect it to drag out for the year went from 3% to 35%.  Looking out 12 months, if the outbreak subsides, the number of business owners planning to hire (33%) still outweighs the number planning to downsize (19%), the survey said.

Many business owners said they already have felt the impact of the virus. Seventy-one percent said more employees are working remotely, up 3% since early March; 70% said sales are down, an increase of 15%; and 65% said their supply chain has already been disrupted, up 10%.