There was celebration on Wall Street and Main Street -- and K Street, too -- as President Bush won reelection and Republicans increased their majorities in both houses of Congress.
The S&P 500 capped off its best two weeks in seven years, with stocks gaining more than 6 percent. Just getting a definitive election result was probably the biggest factor -- for weeks, a growing number of investors had moved to the sidelines out of concern for another month-long legal battle to determine the outcome of the presidential race. And once the Republican sweep was confirmed, concerns about the higher personal and corporate tax rates that a Kerry presidency might have brought quickly disappeared. Particularly frothy were shares of insurance, pharmaceutical, defense, energy, utility and financial services companies, all of which stand to benefit if President Bush can win passage of his economic agenda. Stocks also got an end-of-the-week boost from stronger-than-expected employment numbers for October and oil prices that settled below $50 a barrel.
Other markets, however, fretted that Bush's determination to boost war spending, make tax cuts permanent and introduce privatized Social Security accounts will balloon an already worrisome federal budget deficit. The prospect of rising budget and current-account deficits drove the dollar down to record lows against the euro, which closed the week just shy of $1.30. It also ignited concerns about rising inflation, pushing the interest rate on the 10-year Treasury bond to 4.18 percent. Two weeks ago, the rate had dipped below 4 percent.
No sooner had Bush claimed victory than he was promising to push ahead with still-undefined plans to reform and simplify the tax code, as Ronald Reagan did during his second term. There is virtually nothing that gins up business for Washington lobbyists so much as the prospect of another tax bill, particularly one that threatens all the loopholes so carefully inserted into the tax code in the past.
Even before then, however, the president will consider changes in the lineup of his economic team. Trade negotiator Robert Zoellick, Commerce Secretary Donald Evans and White House economic advisers Steve Friedman and Greg Mankiw are all said to be looking to leave, or move to other positions. Tim Adams, the campaign's policy chief, will need a new perch. And Budget Director Josh Bolton could be in line for the chief of staff job if incumbent Andy Card decides to move on.