As Americans prepared to vote, US investors were waiting anxiously to see who their new president will be and what effect he might have on the battered stock markets.
The next incumbent will take office in the midst of a global financial crisis, but it is the world’s biggest economy that has been hardest hit.
Whoever ends up in the White House, the feeling among economists is that the markets have nowhere to go but up.
There is much debate about exactly how much impact White House policies have.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose steadily during Bill Clinton’s two terms.
It fell during George W Bush’s first four year in office and then recovered, hitting a record high in the middle of last year before going into a steep slide:
Stephen Walt, Professor of International Affairs at Harvard University’s John F Kennedy School of Government, says the winner of this election will inherit a shrinking economy with lots to spend on: “The American economy is now suffering significant problems with the stock market and subprime mortgage crisis that’s occurred. There’s a lot of evidence that American infrastructure needs a lot of attention and a lot of money. So the new president is not going to be in a terrific position.”
The new president will not take office until January, by which time US retailers will have experienced a holiday season which is predicted to be grim. Retail sales there have dropped steeply in recent months.
Americans are not spending because declining home values have decimated the banking sector and led to a credit freeze.
How to turn things around will be the subject of a summit meeting of world leaders in Washington in two weeks time.
It is not know if the president elect will be invited to attend that meeting, which has been organised by President Bush.