Obama's Top 8 Post-Election Economic Issues

PHOTO: Barack Obama
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Now that the anticipation of the presidential election is behind investors' minds, the next hurdle of uncertainty is the fiscal cliff and Europe.

Stocks are reaching lows not reached in months. The forecast for the European economy is gloomy, and Americans are anticipating gridlock over impending tax increases and spending cuts.

President Obama said in his acceptance speech, "And in the coming weeks and months I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together-- reducing our deficit, reforming our tax code, fixing our immigration system, freeing ourselves from foreign oil."

Read More: President Obama's Full Acceptance Speech

"The fact that we can't nail down precisely what's going to happen – if there's one thing that the market hates, it's uncertainty," said Paul Larson, chief equities strategist with investment firm Morningstar. "And now we have a whole lot of uncertainty about how the politicians plan on tackling this problem."

Read more: Stocks Slide After Obama Re-elected

Here are the country's eight biggest post-election economic issues:

1.
Europe

The president did not mention Europe in his acceptance speech, nor was the Eurozone a major topic during the campaign. But the Eurozone's $17 trillion economy is not easy to ignore.

Protests turned violent in Athens in their second day as Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras was seeking approval from parliament on Wednesday for austerity measures to receive needed aid.

Meanwhile, European Central Bank president Mario Draghi said the Eurozone crisis was weighing on Germany's economy.

2.
Healthcare

"The good news is that the Affordable Care Act set change in motion and that momentum is not going away," said Tracy Watts, partner with consulting firm Mercer.

She said she is seeing slower cost increases as a result of reform, which moves employers to make bold changes in health care. However, employers are anxiously awaiting guidance about what rules will look like for 2014.

"Regardless of the outcome of the election, the goals around health benefits for employers remain the same: better consumer experience, improve employee health and manage cost," she said.

She said some employers are embracing two trends. First, there is a movement toward consumer-directed plans, or high deductible account-based plans often paired with tax-preferred health accounts for employees, which can result in savings. Second, employers are implementing defined contribution to manage year-over-year increase in costs. Watts said this is accomplished by spending a pre-defined amount on a basic plan offering and giving employees the option to buy additional coverage.

3.
Payroll taxes

Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James, said the fiscal cliff isn't necessarily a cliff.

"The economy won't grind to a halt on January 1," he said. However, it is possible the average American will lose some money in their pockets as the government deals with its budget deficit.

In particular, the payroll tax is scheduled to return to 6.2 percent in January from 4.2 percent.

Brown said a deal is unlikely by the end of the year.

"My guess is that the fiscal cliff will hit, and then negotiations can begin from there. Tax rates will end up higher than they are now, but lower than they would be otherwise," he said.

4.
Bush tax cuts

Along with an increase in payroll taxes, tax cuts for higher earners from George W. Bush's administration are also set to expire by year's end.

As President Obama has staunchly campaigned for the middle class, he has insisted on raising tax rates for the highest earners.

"The president wants the Bush tax cuts to go away for high earners, which are most executives of companies," said Gregg Passin, U.S. executive rewards leader with Mercer Consulting. "Assuming that does happen and ordinary income tax rates increase in 2013, that might lead some companies to want to pay bonuses in 2012 that would normally be in 2013."

Passin said companies were at least considering options like this in anticipation of higher taxes, but companies and wealthy individuals will make their own choices.

5.
Unemployment benefits

President Obama also did not mention unemployment benefits for the 12.3 million unemployed people in the country despite the upcoming expiration of emergency unemployment benefits at year's end, which will likely affect some of the most vulnerable Americans.

"I know that's an area where they might cut back as the economy is getting better," said Nita Beecher, an attorney and principal with Mercer. "I think that's going to be a balancing act for both the administration and Republicans in harder hit areas."

The Congressional Budget Office said the expiration of the extended emergency unemployment benefits through the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 will lower spending by $26 billion in fiscal year 2013.

However, the president did mention job programs for veterans in his speech on Tuesday night.

Overall, Beecher said the administration is friendly to workers' rights, such as union rights and pay equity for women. She advises employers to have stronger record keeping and documentation if they don't have this information in place in dealing with workers' agencies, such as the EEOC and NLRB.

6.
Spending cuts

Some of the sectors anticipating spending cuts saw decreases in their stock prices the day after the election, including the defense sector.

"A lot of the sectors that were hoping for a Romney win are kind of getting beaten up a little bit today," said Larson. "A Democratic presidency is seen to be less friendly to overall defense spending than Republicans, which are a little bit more hawkish."

Shares of General Dynamics Corporation were down 3.45 percent, to $66.89 in late afternoon trading. Lockheed Martin's stock was down almost 4 percent to $91.14.

7.
Green energy

President Obama took heat during the campaign for his support of Solyndra, a solar energy company that received government stimulus funds and ultimately failed. Governor Romney repeatedly criticized the administration's decision to intervene instead of allowing market forces to act accordingly.

While the president may not be jumping up to support specific companies immediately, he was not shy to address the environment in his acceptance speech.

"We want our children to live in an America that isn't burdened by debt, that isn't weakened by inequality. That isn't weakened by the destructive power of a warming planet," he said, adding that he would work "freeing ourselves from foreign oil."

All businesses, not just the green energy industry, will be watching the administration's next moves regarding climate change, which has been blamed in part for superstorm Sandy, whether it's in the form of regulations, penalties or tax breaks.

8.
The next Federal Reserve Chairman

While U.S. stocks are down, the bigger reaction initially were bonds. Brown said that may be in part to the expectation that President Obama will now choose Federal Chairman Ben Bernanke's successor once his term ends in Jan. 2014.

"Romney would have replaced Fed Chairman Bernanke when his term ends with someone more hawkish. Obama is expected to either re-nominate Bernanke, if he wants the job, or replace him with a kindred spirit," Brown said, which would likely not create a major change in monetary policy.

The Federal Reserve has said it will maintain low interest rates through mid-2015 as the labor market struggles to recover.

ABC News' Nicholas Schifrin and Zunaira Zaki contributed to this report.

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