Questionaires answered by 100 executives and managers from stock and bond brokers, investment houses and financial advisory service firms in New York showed bonus expectations rose sharply since the end of June.

“We have seen an increase in optimism in several areas,” Peter Laughter, chief executive of the financial services staffing firm, told the Financial Times. “Love is in the air.”

About 7% more managers are banking on 2003 being a bonus year. Fifty-three percent of all the employees surveyed expect to receive a bonus, the poll showed.

The positive sentiment comes after second-quarter earnings reports from investment banks such as Merrill Lynch soared.

M&A

A rise in share prices could also spark a flurry of mergers and acquisitions, traditionally the business area in which banks make their highest fees.

Still, there are some dissenting voices.

Even though the Standard & Poor’s Index is up 13%, a number of employees have said they do not expect compensation packages to return to the heady heights of the technology boom.

Many are simply pleased to have jobs at all after Wall Street firms, over the past two years, embarked on their most comprehensive staff culling programmes of all time.