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Fund Managers More Optimistic, Merrill Finds; 40% See Earnings Up 10%

U.S. mutual fund managers are feeling more optimistic. A Merrill Lynch survey of fund managers found a significant change in tone by pros investing domestically.

Fifty-five percent of those queried said it was very unlikely that the economy will experience two straight quarters of negative gross domestic product growth in the next 12 months. A month earlier, only 12% felt that way.

"The economy is in pretty good shape, in our view," John Kornitzer, a portfolio manager and president of Kornitzer Capital Management, told MarketWatch. "Takeover activity is still going on, so you know someone is still finding value in stocks."

More than half of the managers surveyed now believe economic fortunes in the U.S. will get stronger. That compares to slightly less than a third a month ago.

This month, 40% said they think it's likely that corporate earnings will rise 10% or more in the next 12 months. It was at 12% in October.

The sentiments come as the market keeps moving into positive territory. The typical large-cap core stock fund is up more than 11% in 2006, according to Morningstar. In the past three months, it has returned 13%-plus and in the past month, better than 1.5%.

"The macro views we're seeing are definitely working more in our favor these days," James Breen, co-manager of the Symphony Wealth Management Ovation Fund, told MarketWatch. The new balanced fund entering November had 68% of its assets in stocks with another 30% in short-term bonds. The rest was in cash.

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