Brighter Business Sky for US

PRESIDENT-elect Clinton may have gotten one of the best possible Christmas gifts for an incoming chief executive: a round of tentative ap-proval from the business community in the United States, plus an improvement in public confidence regarding the nation's economy.

The uptick in the economy and signs of support from the business community must be considered tentative. The giant American economy is still far from being out of the recessionary woods.

While retailers have posted their best holiday sales in recent years, there is growing concern that the international marketplace may be slowing, reflecting recession in Europe, Asia, and Latin America.

A global downturn has an immediate negative impact on the US, since the export of manufactured goods has helped fuel US growth.

And, as Mr. Clinton himself reminds us, millions of Americans remain unemployed, while thousands more at such important companies as IBM and General Motors face the likelihood of job cutbacks.

Still, consumer confidence is up slightly, a tribute not just to the slow but persistent growth now underway in the US, but also a widespread feeling that the new administration will take firm steps to rev up the country's economy.

Clinton's business-linked Cabinet appointees - such as Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen at Treasury, Wall Street financier Roger C. Altman as Bentsen's deputy, California Congressman Leon Panetta at the Office of Management and Budget, and former congressional budget office director Alice M. Rivlin as Mr. Panetta's deputy - are considered economic "centrists."

Business leaders attending Clinton's recent economic summit were effusive in describing the president-elect as particularly well-informed on business matters. The United States stock market has also cooperated of late, with the market showing unexpected strength during much of December.

Investors may also do well in 1993.

One might assume that the stock market tends to climb faster in the first year of a Republican than a Democratic White House, but in fact markets historically perform about the same in the first year of either a GOP or Democratic president.

Two historical patterns raise the possibility of extra gains next year: The market did particularly well in the first year of two notable Democratic presidents from the recent past - Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy.

And the market tends to do better in the year after a non-incumbent is elected than when an incumbent is reelected.

Thus, adding up the variables - some improvement in the economy, centrists in top economic Cabinet positions, and a president well-informed on economic matters - it's easy to see why, at this juncture at least, the US business community is warming to the man from Little Rock.

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