Stocks Under Bush and Gore

Think George W. Bush is going to be the next president of the United States? Maybe you should bulk up your portfolio with some oil and defense industry stocks. Betting on Al Gore? Then you might want to go for more shares in broadband telecommunications or environmentally friendly recycling companies.

That’s the consensus of securities analysts who have been handicapping stocks that could get a boost or take a beating, depending on the outcome of Tuesday’s presidential election.

Investors Urged to ‘Wait and See’ And while they’ve got growing lists of likely Wall Street winners and losers culled from the promises made by the candidates, stock experts urge investors to wait to make any major stock purchases or sales until after the votes are counted.

“The race is so close that no one can predict who the winner is going to be,” said Sung Won Sohn, chief economist at Wells Fargo & Co. of San Francisco. “And who controls the Congress also matters. A lot of campaign proposals have to get congressional approval, and some aren’t going to make it.”

In addition, some of the stock market volatility in the waning days of the Clinton administration could ease after the election, making stock picking easier.

“Right now, the market is moving on the four Es — energy, the euro, earnings and the election,” said Alan Ackerman, senior financial strategist at Fahnestock & Co. in New York. “The election will eliminate one of those uncertainties.”

Profiting from a Bush Win A number of brokerages, including Prudential Securities, Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch, have published lists of industries expected to get post-election boosts, depending on who’s declared the winner. A Bush win appears to give the biggest lift to the widest variety of stocks.

“Bush has to be viewed as the favored candidate of the equity markets, not only because of his likely blunting or reversing of the Clinton-Gore regulatory and antitrust agenda, but because of his market-based Social Security proposals,” said Charles A. Gabriel, a political analyst for Prudential Securities in Washington. Conversely, “Gore is seen as more friendly to bond markets.”

Among the industries Gabriel expects to get a lift from a Bush victory are defense, which stands to get more funding for general military preparedness and missile systems, as well as tobacco, which he believes is likely to incur less White House wrath from Republicans than from Democrats.

He’s also high on energy stocks, in part because of Bush’s own history of involvement in the oil sector.

“It’s long overdue for the U.S. to recapitalize the energy sector,” Gabriel said. “We’ve gone so long without much new drilling activity … [amid] Clinton’s environmentally driven energy policy.”

Profiting from a Gore Win At Lehman Brothers, analyst Kim Wallace expects a Gore victory would boost companies making fossil fuel alternatives such as fuel cells, as well as telecommunications shares.

“We believe that Gore will continue pushing policies that play well for companies providing broadband services to as many Americans as possible,” he wrote in a memo on investment strategy. “Long-distance, competitive local exchange carriers and satellite companies probably do better under Gore.”

Wallace also suggests Gore likely would maintain the current administration’s stance against Microsoft, which is hunkered down while it appeals a Justice Department antitrust case. This, Lehman Brothers argues, could help competitors like Sun Microsystems and Oracle.

How Will Others Do? There’s general agreement that the financial services industries could be a big winner if Bush is elected and presses ahead with his plan to allow Americans to invest some of their Social Security contributions through private managers. The analysts mention mutual fund companies Franklin Resources and T. Rowe Price Associates as well as brokers Charles Schwab and Goldman Sachs, among others.

There’s some disagreement over how the health sector will fare under Republicans or Democrats.

Gore has sharply criticized health maintenance organizations, has accused pharmaceutical companies of profiteering and wants a prescription drug benefit added to Medicare. Many analysts, as a result, believe health care and pharmaceutical companies’ shares will do better under Bush, who takes a more laissez-faire approach to regulation and backs a plan to help low-income seniors buy private health insurance and drug coverage.

While Lehman Brothers sees a Bush win as helping the health care sector, it adds: “Other pundits’ panic over a Gore win is overblown.”