WASHINGTON -- The bond market is giving generally favorable reviews to President-elect Bill Clinton's apparent choices for the top economic positions in his new administration.
Clinton's selections would place powerful leaders from Congress with experience in budget and tax issues alongside Wall Street leaders skilled in financial markets.
His picks are expected to be announced later this week, but the names are already generally known through leaks to the press from transition team members in Little Rock and sources here who are close to Clinton's advisers. Last Thursday, The Bond Buyer reported that Clinton had decided to nominate Senate Finance Committee Chairman Lloyd Bentsen, D-Tex., as his Treasury secretary.
Other reported selections include House Budget Committee Chairman Leon Panetta, D-Calif., to head the Office of Management and Budget, and Robert Rubin, co-chairman of Goldman, Sachs & Co., to be the new economic security adviser.
Roger Altman, vice chairman of the Blackstone Group, is expected to be named deputy Treasury secretary.
"Those names are all well received from a market standpoint," said David Jones, chief economist for Aubrey G. Lanston & Co. Bond prices were up again yesterday on the belief that Clinton's new team will be a force for moderation in advocating any short-term fiscal stimulus, Jones said.
Not all of Clinton's choices are certain. Jones said he was hearing that Rubin is not a sure bet as economic security adviser, and said it was not known who will be named chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers.
Alice Rivlin, former head of the Congressional Budget Office, and Lawrence Summers, president of the World Bank, are both believed to be in the running.
But there was no getting around the relaxed mood of general approval in the market as participants expressed the hope that Clinton is picking an experienced team of moderates who can take the economy to higher ground without new government programs that fuel inflation.
This is a market shift in sentiment from before Clinton's election, when bond market jitters over a Democratic White House took the yield on the long bond as high as 7.75%.
"On balance these all sound like excellent appointments, consistent with the better tone that the municipal bond market has taken on in the last three or four weeks," said Robert Chamberlin, director of municipal research at Dean Witter Reynolds Inc.
"Gov. Clinton has turned around from being an absolute threat to being viewed as a constructive craftsman who is going to be capable of seeing the economy through with some combination of expansion that is not truly inflationary," said Chamberlin. And, he added, Clinton is clearly showing "he is interested in what the market thinks."
Clinton made a campaign out of seeking to end the policy gridlock between the White House and Congress, and many analysts yesterday were saying they believe his new appointments can do that.
Bentsen, 71, is a skilled elder statesman with detailed knowledge of taxes, health care, and trade -- three big issues for Clinton. At the same time, Bentsen is known to favor tax and savings incentives for business that have drawn support on occasion from Republican Senate members.
Panetta has emphasized the risks of quick-fix budget moves and backed budget reforms that reduce the deficit over the long haul. That strategy could prove important with Clinton, who has gotten advice from liberal aides focusing on pump-priming measures.
But those advisers seem to be fading from contention for top policy-making positions within the Clinton camp. For example, Robert Reich, the Harvard University professor who heads the transition team, has apparently faded as a candidate to head the President's Council of Economic Advisers.
Reich has run into criticism because he is not a professional economist. Now there is talk that he is under consideration for secretary of the Commerce Department.
Many other academic advisers without grounding in finance or national politics are not being mentioned for any of the top economic positions. They include professors Alan Blinder of Princeton University and Paul Krugman of the Massachussetts Institute of Technology, both among the more liberal proponents of fiscal stimulus.
Other names that have dropped from the list of the highly favored include business consultant Ira Magaziner, James Tobin of Yale University, Robert Solow of MIT, Derek Shearer of Occidental College, and Laura Tyson of the University of California at Berkeley.
Not all analysts were impressed with Clinton's picks, which have also apparently dropped former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, the overwhelming favorite of the bond market. Robert Brusca, chief economist for Nikko Securities International Inc., called Bentsen "beyond a shadow of a doubt the worst appointment" that Clinton could make.
"People say he's an expert on the process and a moderate," said Brusca. "Who needs that? We know how it works. You want to put your legislation through, you vote for mine, and I vote for yours, and you get more spending than anybody needs."
But others argued that Bentsen will help Clinton sell the new administrator's programs to Congress. "Without the ability to get things through Congress, you simply have a continuation of the gridlock we saw before," said David Berson, chief economist for the Federal National Mortgage Association.
On the other hand, Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady, who headed up Dillon, Read & Co. before being tapped by President Reagan, seemed like a good pick at the time because of his Wall Street background. But Brady lost credibility in the financial markets and was often viewed as ineffective in dealing with Congress.