Tales from the Trail

Market drop reveals secret of White House podium: it doesn’t do real-time news

The stock market was dropping quickly, down more than 900 points for a bit, and market reports were citing Greece’s financial troubles. The White House briefing was in full swing.

Reporters facing President Barack Obama’s press secretary found they had up-to-minute information that Robert Gibbs did not.

OBAMA/One reporter asked about the stock market’s drop below 10,000 ”in the last few seconds, while you’ve been talking.” Gibbs had no immediate answer. “Let me go find out. You guys have — I’m going to start bringing my computer.”

But what about that fancy podium with all the gizmos, can’t he just call up the news with a fingertip? Apparently not.

Gibbs pressed one of the buttons on the podium and turned to the screen behind him — “These little things just say the White House, and you click on them, and they go to a blank screen, and then it goes back to the White House … this doesn’t do a thing,” he said.

Obama as stockbroker in chief?

President Barack Obama is wearing many hats these days — commander in chief, head of state, father — so what about stock broker?
 
The new president, who has spent the first weeks of his administration working on proposals to boost the economy, lifted eyebrows and, at least briefly, stocks on Tuesday when he suggested that battered shares were a potentially a good investment at low prices they are currently touching.
OBAMA-BRITAIN/ 
Speaking in the Oval Office with visiting British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Obama said it was natural that markets would be suffering from bad economic news.
 
But then he weighed in with this observation:
 
“What you’re now seeing is — is profit and earning ratios are starting to get to the point where buying stocks is a potentially good deal if you’ve got a long-term perspective on it.”
 
Sound like cheerleading at all?
 
Stocks inched upward in response to his words, but his spokesman, Robert Gibbs, played down the comments later, saying they were in line with Obama’s previous statements on the economy.
 
Tell us what you think. Is the president encouraging Americans to buy stocks? And is that good advice?
 
For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Jason Reed (Obama and Brown at the White House)

First draft: Wall Street CEOs, Geithner head to Hill for grilling

When Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner made his long-awaited speech on Tuesday to unveil the administration’s bank rescue plan, the stock market tanked. Traders said the nearly five percent drop was caused by a lack of specifics in Geithner’s announcement that the government would spend up to $2 trillion to mop up bad bank assets and revive lending.USA/

The main newspapers had banner headlines about the biggest one-day drop for Dow industrials since Dec. 1.

So what will happen today when Geithner heads to Capitol Hill to testify before the Senate Budget Committee? The market will also be watching as top Wall Street CEOs appear in a hearing with the House Financial Services committe to defend their use of $176 billion in taxpayer funds.

The First Draft, Wednesday Dec. 31

Happy New Year. It was a great political year. But most folks with a 401K retirement account and a mortgage will be glad to bid farewell to 2008 and ring in 2009 with a feeling of optimism that is natural with the start of a new year. 

 
FINANCIAL/TIMESIt would seem investors have gotten a whiff of that optimism.  After registering some of the worst annual losses in history, world stock markets look to close out the year on an up note. Wall street is poised to open higher with oil prices falling and the dollar rising.

  
Still, 2009 promises to bring more political drama. Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who has been accused of trying to sell the vacant Senate seat, defied calls by his fellow Democrats to resign and appointed former state attorney general Roland Burris to fill the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. 

The First Draft, Tuesday Dec. 30

Israel’s military operations in Gaza continue to dominate front pages of major newspapers and morning talk shows. Wall Street is looking for a positive start as oil and gold prices ease back from the price spikes that followed the onset of the Israeli strikes against Hamas.USA-OBAMA/

President George W. Bush remains at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, while President-elect Barack Obama continues his vacation in Hawaii.

GMAC said it will resume financing auto loans following a $5 billion investment from the U.S. Treasury. The latest financial rescue also included a $1 billion loan to General Motors to purchase equity in GMAC.

The First Draft, Monday Dec. 29

WASHINGTON – Israeli air attacks in Gaza dominate morning talk shows and front pages of major U.S. newspapers. The attacks pushed up oil prices by more than $3 a barrel to over $40. Gold prices also moved higher. Nevertheless, U.S. stock index futures pointed to a higher open on Wall Street in what is expected to be a light trading.tanks2

President-elect Barack Obama remains in Hawaii and President George W. Bush is at his ranch in Texas.

Winter weather extremes and dismal holiday shopping season featured on morning talk shows.

The First Draft: Thursday, Nov. 20

Major indexes dropped  to their lowest level since 2003 yesterday and U.S. stock futures are pointing to another plunge today as investors worry about the fate of U.S. carmakers and the spectre of a prolonged economic downturn.
    
Just how bad is it? Well, here’s another sign of the impending apocalypse: the Labor Department reported at 8:30 a.m. EST that jobless claims are at their highest level in 16 years.   

After two days of petitioning Congress, Detroit automakers headed home without the $25 billion check they were angling for. Congressional leaders say a deal is doubtful until next January as they prepare to adjourn for the year.
    
President-elect Barack Obama remains in Chicago, piecing together a new administration that could include Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. His peeps are a little miffed by the leaks out of the Clinton camp, which they tell the New York Times are designed to force them to give her the post. Is this a sign that Obama’s formal rival might “go rogue” if she ends up working for him?
    
Happy Joe Biden’s birthday, everyone! The vice president-elect turns 66 today. 
    
And it’s not even Thanksgiving, but the Christmas Wars are starting up already. Two conservative Christian groups plan to set up a Christmas scene on the sidewalk in front of the Supreme Court as they talk about their plans to promote the display of nativity scenes across the country on private and public property.

Photo: REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke (costumed angels in Berlin)