Optimism among U.S. individual investors rose in December for a third month, reaching the highest level since February, according to a monthly poll by brokerage UBS and the Gallup Organization.
The jump in sentiment may have reflected the fact that the stock market still was riding high in the first half of the month. The poll of 803 randomly selected investors nationwide was conducted from Dec. 1 to 15. The blue-chip Standard & Poor's 500 index reached a 4 1/2 -year high Dec. 14.
The poll's index of investor sentiment rose to 79 this month from 50 in November, UBS said.
The gauge reached a 2 1/2 -year low of 34 in September after Hurricane Katrina drove energy prices sharply higher.
In this month's poll, 64% of investors said it was a "good time" to invest in financial markets, up from 56% in November.
Of the 86% of investors who had heard of the possibility that the housing market was in a "bubble," 51% said the housing boom would continue for several more months, while 46% said it was over or almost over.