SURVEY SAYS INVESTORS have LESS FAITH IN MARKET: Forty-three percent of active, individual investors have less confidence in the stock market in the aftermath of Enron, according to results of a survey conducted by Towers Group, a New York-based communications firm.

And, according to the poll, just 23 percent of U.S. investors believe strongly in the stock market’s ability to reflect the fair value of stocks. Furthermore, 88 percent of investors believe Enron’s executives, board, auditors or attorneys "intentionally" misled the public.

The Towers Group survey, which was conducted in February, queries some 363 investors with 401(k)s or other retirement plans and who had also invested outside their plans in stocks or mutual funds during the past two years.

SCHARFSTEIN NAMED VICE PRESIDENT OF AXA FINANCIAL: Eva Scharfstein has joined AXA Financial Inc. as vice president and chief underwriting officer.

In her new role, Scharfstein will have overall responsibility for life underwriting policy and individual life risk selection for the Equitable Life Assurance Society of the U.S - the product manufacturer of AXA Financial.

SAVERS WILL POUR $39 BILLION INTO IRAs IN 2002: Americans saving for their twilight years are expected to pour up to $39 billion in Individual Retirement Accounts in 2002 now that higher contributions limits are in place, according to a new survey. The Fidelity Investments survey found that more than 70 percent of those saving in IRAs are likely to increase their investments to take advantage of new tax laws which raised the contribution limit. In sum, contributions to IRAs are expected to be nearly $8 billion more than what taxpayers set aside in 2002.

"Investors clearly recognize the tremendous opportunity to accumulate more for their retirement years," said Fidelity Brokerage Company senior vice president, Dale Bearden. "The contribution limits have been in effect for just two months and already we’ve seen the average IRA contribution jump to $2,195 from $1,627, a 35-percent increase from last year at this time," he said.

Those closest to retirement are likely to save even more in their IRAs due to a new catch-up provision allowing investors age 50 or older to save an additional $500 in 2002.

Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of those surveyed age 50 or older are likely to increase their contribution, half of whom intend to meet the maximum contribution limit of $3,500 for 2002, the survey found.

PUTNAM INVESTMENTS TO CUT 11 MUTUAL FUNDS: Citing a precipitous drop in stock portfolios over the past several years, mutual fund giant Putnam Investments said it would either merge or close some 11 funds.

Putnam, a unit of Marsh & McLennan Cos. Inc., said 10 of its funds would be merged into other portfolios while another would be liquidated entirely.

Funds that would be merged out of existence include the Putnam New Century Growth Fund, with over $650 million in assets and the Putnam Technology Fund.

Both of those funds’ assets would be folded into the larger Putnam Voyager II. The fund mergers would reduce Putnam’s open-end fund offerings to 55 from 66.

STUDY: ENRON FIASCO SPURS 401K CONCERNS: About 45 percent of employees polled in a recent financial planning survey said they have heightened concerns about the security of their 401K plans since the fall of Enron.

About one-third of those surveyed by online market researcher InsightExpress said they would consider purchasing some form of retirement insurance to protect them from "Enron-like" situations.

The InsightExpress study also reported that a scant 1 percent of those surveyed trust employers most to provide sound financial guidance.

The study was conducted in early March 2002 among 300 investors.

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