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The men and women running Canada's investment dealers are an optimistic bunch.

The Investment Industry Association of Canada (IIAC) surveyed 166 chief executive officers at Canada's dealer firms about how global capital markets will do in 2014. Thirty-nine per cent of the survey's respondents – IIAC didn't say how many CEOs participated – believe the markets will improve. Another 48 per cent expect the markets to remain unchanged.

"The fact that half of industry CEOs see the state of capital markets as being more or less the same as last year signals stability," Ian Russell, IIAC's CEO, said in a statement. "From an investor's perspective, this is an important and positive sign.

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When it comes to profit, however, the investment dealer CEOs showed more excitement. The survey found 48 per cent of respondents predict "improved results for firm profitability" while 36 per cent expect 2014 to mirror 2013, according to IIAC. Ten per cent expect "significant improvements."

Mr. Russell attributed the optimism to the steps small firms have made to cut costs, add scale, build business, and "generally put themselves on sounder footing."

Despite cutting costs, 52 per cent of the CEOs expect to hire new employees, according to the survey. Only 6 per cent are anticipating cuts.

Mergers and acquisitions are not expected to shape Canada's dealers in 2014. Only 10 per cent of the survey's respondents plan to acquire or merge with another firm this year. The most valuable small firms, Mr. Russell said, have already been bought out.

The executives expect the majority of investors to get back into the market and reduce their cash holdings.

The survey's respondents moaned about regulatory rules, with 84 per cent listing "regulatory pressures" in their top three barriers to growth.

"In light of the tsunami of rules that have been put in place – and the burdens they create – the industry will increasingly be looking for clear justification for any new rules," Mr. Russell said. "The industry – and Canadian companies seeking capital – can ill-afford additional, unjustifiable regulatory burdens that discourage small business investment and undermine the growth and competitiveness of the Canadian economy."

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The survey results did not detail the margin for error.

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