Merrill Lynch economist David Rosenberg’s views are well-known for bearing no resemblance to his firm’s trademark bull, so when he says European clients seem too upbeat, what he really means is they weren’t thoroughly depressed. The New York-based economist just got back from a marketing trip across the Atlantic and didn’t find much common ground.

In particular, he said European clients seemed more concerned about inflation than the deflation that he sees coming, and they may have unrealistically high expectations for President Barack Obama.

“Unbelievably … portfolio managers seem to think they are taking a bigger risk with their careers by missing the rallies than by missing the sell-offs,” he wrote in a note to clients. “I can tell you that this is not a condition from a sentiment standpoint that terminates bear markets.”

For the record, Rosenberg thinks the Standard & Poor’s 500 index may have another 20 percent to fall, and U.S. house prices could drop an additional 15 percent. That would take the cumulative loss in U.S. household net worth to $20 trillion. Yes, trillion.

He said European clients had a “very high degree of confidence” that Obama would be forceful in addressing reflation, credit and the recession, and he heard frequent comparisons to Franklin Roosevelt.