Traders who play the shares of W.R. Grace & Co. of Columbia didn't bother waiting for John Kerry's concession speech to start buying the stock.
The Senate results from South Dakota sent the signal they were looking for.
Democrat Thomas A. Daschle, the Senate minority leader, was defeated by Republican John R. Thune, who got considerable support from business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Daschle's defeat means he will no longer be a roadblock to a $140 billion asbestos bill that is crucial to the fortunes of W.R. Grace and dozens of other companies that once were in the asbestos business.
Grace stock jumped 14 percent the day after the election and closed Friday at $13.36 a share, up 26 percent for the week.
Grace is the instant winner in the Washington Investing election lottery. The voting that returned President Bush to office and strengthened Republican majorities in the House and Senate is expected to bring benefits to a few mid-Atlantic companies and trouble to a couple of others.
Government-chartered mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac look to be the big losers, facing new regulation by the reinforced Republicans.
The two big Baltimore financial services firms, Legg Mason Inc. and T. Rowe Price Group Inc., are on the list of winners, as are the region's defense contractors.
Mutual fund manager T. Rowe Price and the Legg Mason investment firm both could benefit from Bush's proposal to encourage private retirement savings accounts as part of Social Security. That plan faces many political hurdles, but it is widely regarded as a potential source of billions of dollars worth of new business for investment firms.
Conventional wisdom is that Pentagon contractors also will benefit from Bush's reelection, which helps explain last week's bump in the shares of Lockheed Martin Corp., CACI Inc. and SI International Inc.
Shares of each hit a 52-week high Friday.
While those stocks have moved up since Election Day, none can match the move by W.R. Grace shares, which closed Friday at their highest level ever. Grace officials declined to comment on the election's implications for the company.
In its present incarnation, Grace is a $2 billion-a-year specialty chemicals company with 6,000 employees and operations in 40 countries. It once was much more than that -- it was into building materials, shipping, retailing, and it was a major producer of asbestos insulating products.
Long-term exposure to asbestos can cause lung cancer and other respiratory ailments and is now considered to be such a severe health hazard that it is banned. Tens of thousands of workers were exposed to asbestos, suffering ailments that did not show up for years.
First came the asbestos sickness, then the lawsuits -- so many of them that most companies in the business, including Grace, were forced into bankruptcy.
After years of wrangling, legislation to compensate asbestos victims is finally moving through Congress. Lawmakers have agreed to create a $140 billion fund -- financed by the asbestos companies and their insurance carriers -- to pay claims. In return for filling the pot, the asbestos industry wants protection from lawsuits. Daschle refused to go along with limiting litigation, which was one of the principal reasons business groups targeted him for defeat.
When Daschle went down, traders immediately began betting on asbestos stocks, driving up shares of Grace and other companies facing asbestos lawsuits, including Owens-Illinois Inc., Crown Holdings Inc. and USG Corp.
No other industry got such an instant payback from the election results. The day after the presidential election there was a big drop in the stocks of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but both have since recovered. Fannie shares closed Friday at $70.10 -- down just a nickel from a week earlier. Freddie stock closed at $67.18, up about 60 cents over the past week.
The reason for what looks like instant overreaction was the snap judgment that Tuesday's voting strengthened the hand of Republicans who have been pushing for stronger government oversight of Freddie and Fannie, which are chartered by Congress to provide money for home mortgages.
Legendary for their lobbying success, Fannie and Freddie for years have fended off demands for stronger government oversight of their operations, which account for about half the U.S. mortgage market.
But their position has been undercut by allegations that both used improper accounting to smooth out their earnings -- stashing profits when they had exceptionally good years, then pulling earnings out of that "cookie jar" when they hit rough patches.
Treasury Secretary John W. Snow has endorsed efforts to create a powerful independent agency to oversee the companies, which now are regulated by a tiny bureaucracy that is no match for two multibillion-dollar businesses. Snow, however, is expected to leave the Cabinet and no one really knows where Fannie and Freddie will end up on the agenda for Bush's second term.
Executives of Fannie and Freddie acknowledge that if Bush wants to target them, he would probably succeed. Freddie Mac chief executive Richard F. Syron said at the company's annual meeting last week: "The president has been quite ambitious and acted with a substantial degree of conviction . . . and I would expect that to continue."
Wall Street, which makes millions of dollars a year from mortgage-backed securities issued by Fannie and Freddie, has long defended the companies, even in the face of civil and criminal inquiries into their accounting practices.
Some analysts argue that tighter regulation will make Fannie and Freddie better, safer investments. Many others, however, think the opposite: that the growth and profitability of Fannie and Freddie are likely to be limited by whatever action the administration and Congress decide to take.
It's too soon to tell if a second term for Bush and stronger Republican majorities in the House and Senate will result in regulatory changes, and what that would mean for Fannie and Freddie's shareholders. The drop in their stocks the day after the election, however, is a clue that professional traders are worried and will dump Fannie's and Freddie's stocks if it looks like the White House wants to make their regulation a priority.