A victory this fall by Democrat Bill Clinton or independent H. Ross Perot over President Bush would not necessarily snap the bank stock rally, analysts said.
Although banks stocks and the stock market in general tend to benefit from political continuity, the record suggests no relationship between bank stock performance and which party occupies the White House.
In addition, both Mr. Clinton and Mr. Perot have expressed pro-banking sentiments, though restrictive banking laws in Mr. Clinton's home state of Arkansas and Mr. Perot's opposition to more liberal trade links with Mexico have sparked some concern.
Strong Start for Presidency
But the economy, not who the President is, will be the key to bank stock performance, analysts said. And the economic outlook is bright.
"In many ways, the next President will inherit a more favorable economic starting point than any President since John F. Kennedy in 1960," said John D. Leonard of Salomon Brothers Inc. "That election prefaced a banking nirvana in the early |60s that has not been seen since."
A look at the record reveals bank shareholders have fared about as well, sometimes better, with Democrats since World War Two as under supposedly more pro-business Republicans.
In a recent study, Mr. Leonard traced movements of the firm's weighted index of bank stocks, both in absolute terms and relative to the overall stock market, from 1949 through last year.
Under four Democratic administrations, bank stock prices averaged four-year cumulative gains of 29.13% in absolute terms against 23% for seven Republican administrations.
Relative to the market, bank stocks have lost ground under depressing 18.47% against the market.
On the Bush Roller Coaster
As for the current occupant of the White House, George Bush has presided over the best and worst of times for bank shareholders, relative to the stock market in general.
Akin to a roller coaster, the 23.02% plunge made 1990 the worst single year on record, while the 22.88% rally in 1991 was the best.
Analysts said Mr. Clinton has done little in five terms to modernize the anarchronistic banking and usury laws in Arkansas. However, his chief of staff is now William Bowen, former chairman and chief executive officer of First Commercial Corp. in Little Rock.
Of course, no track record exists to provide clues about how bank investors might do if Mr. Perot, the Texas computer enterpreneur, were elected.
Reportedly, Mr. Perot's best friend in banking is Hugh McColl, NationsBank Corp. chairman and chief executive officer. They share a hard-charging, no-nonsense business mentality but also sometimes speak about social issues such as child care.
"Ross Perot is a pragmatic businessman," said Frank W. Anderson, bank analyst at Stephens Inc., Little Rock, Ark. "He understands the role played by banks."
On an issue of interest to banks, Mr. Perot sent his son to the Mexico City stock exchange twice recently to explain his father's stand on a United States-Mexico free trade pact, according to Rep. Jim Kobe, R-Ariz.
Mr. Perot's harsh comments about the pact, being negotiated as part of a wider North American Free Trade Agreement, had unnerved the Mexican market.