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The Obama effect

Bruce Love is editor-in-chief (wealth) of Campden Publishing.

Leading up to the election in the US this week, a lot of family business owners I talked to were excited at the prospect of Barack Obama as president.

The need for healing and for a president that could bridge social divides has become more important than the perceived need for a president who liked to cut taxes for the wealthy.

In the end, the economic crisis helped Obama into the White House, but it is also going to be one of his major challenges for the foreseeable future. And being the one left to clean up the mess is often very tricky.

While he rode to victory on a platform of change it is quite likely that given the current economic conditions, he will be judged more on his ability to deal with the financial crisis than anything else.

Many pundits believe this is possibly the largest financial crisis that any modern president has ever had to face. Unemployment is once more on the rise, the banking sector is in tatters, the financial markets are yo-yoing, and lending is tighter than ever.

The housing market is also in its biggest decline since the Great Depression. And at the same time, exports are slowing and talk of recession is endless.

So is Obama up to the challenge?

With news that Obama had won, the dollar tanked, equities were up sharply and bonds were also up, which was a somewhat strange concept. This doesn't exactly promote a spirit of confidence. The very measured reaction to the news of the Obama victory suggests short-term concern.

In the bigger picture, of course, we are looking at the starting point of a new era in market history and we will have plenty of time to think about the consequences of a new Democratic president with strong majorities in both house of Congress. This is a very different environment than the one under Clinton, for example, whose initiatives were hampered by Republican lawmakers for most of his presidency.

With a population suffering and looking for change and one political party clearly in power, it is obvious that policy response will be a pivotal input in trading and investment opportunities for at least the next two years until the midterm elections of 2010.

Should there be more capital injections financial firms? Should troubled assets be purchased at all? How will the administration force the much-needed consolidation of banking sector so that government can withdraw support? These are very political questions that will require extreme thought and a fresh approach.

A lot will rest on Obama's choice of staff and how much he can trust their expertise. Time will tell if Obama can effect a positive outcome in these difficult time, But if it is change that America's family businesses wanted, that's exactly what America's family businesses got.

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