By Jeff Cox, CNBC.com Senior Writer NEW YORK ( CNBC) -- Consumer nervousness over their stock portfolios is reaching an apex, which actually could mean good news for the market in the long run. The most recent Conference Board consumer confidence survey, delivered Tuesday morning, contained an interesting nugget about worry over the state of equities. The report found that the percentage of those who believe stock prices are going to fall shot up from 32.4% to 42.6%. The 10.2 percentage point surge represents something of a landmark. Looking at data back to 1987, there have been only seven occasions where the rise in stock market fortunes has eclipsed 10 percentage points in a month.
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The Investors Intelligence Survey, which surveys newsletter authors, was the outlier, finding bulls in charge by a 37% to 26% margin last week. But the most important gauge of all -- where investors are putting their money -- is strongly on the side of those who don't believe in stocks. Mutual funds focused on U.S. stocks saw another $620 million of outflows last week, according to the Investment Company Institute, which said bond funds gained a whopping $3.6 billion. In the Conference Board survey, investors expressed more jitters about their investments than they did even about their jobs, despite the 8.2% national unemployment rate and lackluster monthly payrolls growth. The current conditions index is considered a reliable proxy for feelings about job security, and that portion actually rose from to a 46.6 reading from a 44.9. That means, according to Amna Asaf at Capital Economics, that "households were more concerned about their equity portfolios than their job security." "Looking ahead, the fall in gasoline prices should provide a short-term boost to real consumption," Asaf said. "But confidence could easily fall further if equity prices continue to tumble." --Written by Jeff Cox at CNBC