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Taking stock of the Clinton market // Everybody wants credit for Wall Street surge

Though Bill Clinton may usually hear more jeers than cheers from Wall Street, the stock market has thrived in the years of his presidency.

From Election Day in 1992, when he defeated incumbent George Bush, through August 1996, the Dow Jones average of 30 industrial stocks, the best known measure of market trends, climbed nearly 74 percent.

That gain surpassed anything recorded under Clinton's immediate Republican predecessors _ 32.8 percent in Ronald Reagan's second term; and 52.9 percent in Bush's four-year presidency.

So much for the Street's traditional preference for conservative Republicans.

Not surprisingly, Clinton's partisans proclaim what they describe s his economic achievements _ including unexpected progress in narrowing the federal budget deficit and a multiyear run of moderate, sustained economic growth.

Also not surprisingly, the Republicans say he shouldn't get much credit.

The economy is benefiting, they argue, from powerful forces that go beyond White House politics, including a global economic awakening in places ranging from Mexico to Russia.

What's more, they say, the dramatic market gains of 1995 and early 1996 came after a midterm election landslide that gave control of both houses of Congress to the GOP.

As this debate continues, the great bull market that began in the early '80s has established a pretty convincing record of political impartiality. It has spanned the administrations of three presidents who are generally described, in sequential order, as a conservative, a moderate and a liberal.

On Clinton's watch, technology stocks have scored some of the most dramatic gains as the world has hooked into the Internet and other high-tech innovations. Case in point: a better than 1,000 percent gain in the Nasdaq market for the stock of America Online.

Financial stocks _ banks, credit companies, even the beleaguered savings and loans _ have also prospered, thanks in no small measure to the long-term downward trend in interest rates.

And what of the next four years? The market's record under all recent presidents stands as a tough act to follow.

Three months before the Nov. 5 election, Wall Streeters were generally assuming, with an eye on the polls, that Clinton would be elected to a second term.

But if the next development in both politics and the stock market is almost always uncertain, analysts say one thing is clear: Any attempt to draw some simplistic, straight-line conclusion about the effect of political news on stock prices can be a hazardous undertaking.

_ Chet Currier has covered Wall Street for the AP since 1974.

Best and worse

Technology and health care companies were among the best-performing stocks in the Clinton years. Shown below are best and worst stocks by exchange, based on percent change in price from the day Clinton was elected through Thursday. Stocks listed had to be worth at least $2 at the start of the period.

NYSE

Company % Chg Company % Chg

Clear Channel 1,242.1 Robert Half Int 847.6

Input/Output Inc. 1,200.7 Callaway Golf 812.3

Safeguard Sci 1,184.9 Diana Corp 702.3

Aames Financial 1,041.6 Fair Isaac 685.7

AGCO Cp 1,006.0 Wolverine WW 618.5

NYSE

Company % Chg Company % Chg

Mid-Am Waste Sys -97.8 Bradlees Inc -93.2

Central Transport -96.5 Aileen Inc -92.0

Edison Bros -95.2 Caldor Cp -91.1

Morrison Knudsen -94.1 Midwest RE Cntrs -90.5

Wahlco Environ -93.5 Fruehauf Trailer -88.0

NASDAQ

Company % Chg Company % Chg

Access Hlth Inc 2,377.0 Jones Med Ind 1,190.4

Tellabs Inc 1,981.4 Mastec Inc 1,155.5

Davox Corp 1,575.0 U.S. Robotics Cp 1,122.8

America Online 1,331.9 Integrated Systms 1,115.3

Hologic 1,323.6 Cognos Inc 1,050.0

NASDAQ

Company % Chg Company % Chg

ICIS Mgmt Gr Inc -99.9 Appletree Cos -99.0

Advantg Life Prodcts -99.3 Comprehensive Env -98.5

Innovo Group Inc -99.2 Global Spill Mgmt -98.3

EVRO Cp -99.1 Amer Internat Petro -97.8

Saratoga Brands -99.1 DeNovo Cp -97.2

AMEX

Company % Chg Company % Chg

Ackerley Comm 1,097.5 Thermo Cardiosys 605.2

Fibreboard Cp 858.5 Keane Inc 565.7

Hallwood Realty 650.1 PLC Systems 515.4

Gelman Sciences 625.0 Servico Inc 445.5

Getchell Gold 612.5 Fresenius USA Inc 438.9

AMEX

Company % Chg Company % Chg

Bentley Pharm -97.0 RX Medical Svcs -93.5

Porta Syst -96.0 Editek Inc -89.2

Angeles Prtcp A -93.8 CST Entertain -88.9

Prism Entmnt -93.7 Jan Bell Mktg -87.7

Health Prof -93.6 Everest & Jennings -86.9

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