Investor optimism has tumbled to its lowest level since the beginning of the Iraq war

The Gallup Index of Investor Optimism fell to 15 in May—down from 22 in March, 95 in May 2007, and 103 in January 2007.

The May reading of 15 is the Index’s lowest level for May since its inception in October 1996. However, the Index remains slightly above its March 2003 low point of 5. The Index hit its all-time high of 178 in January 2000.

Investors remain pessimistic about the economic outlook for the year ahead, with the Economic Dimension of the Index at -31. This reflects less investor economic pessimism than the -40 of early March, which might be expected because the March measurement took place prior to the Bear Stearns bailout. Investors are currently as pessimistic about the economic outlook as they were in March 2003, at the outset of the Iraq war, when the Economic Dimension was at -30.

Gallup said: ‘Right now, the American consumer faces major challenges ranging from surging food and energy prices to plunging housing prices and a lack of job growth. The last thing Main Street needs is higher interest rates.’

Results for this Gallup Panel study are based on telephone interviews with 576 investors, aged 18 and older, with at least $10,000 in investable assets, conducted May 19-21, 2008.