Thursday, July 23, 2009

(BN) Obama Gets 87% Favorable Rating Among Investors Outside U.S.; 49% at Home

Bloomberg News, sent from my iPhone.

Obama Approval at 87% Outside U.S.; 49% at Home Among Investors

July 23 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama has rock-star appeal among the investing class -- except in his own country.

The Quarterly Bloomberg Global Poll of financial investors and analysts finds attitudes about the new president in Asia and Europe are overwhelmingly positive. In the U.S., by contrast, they are slightly negative.

In Europe and Asia, 87 percent of respondents say they view Obama positively, compared with just 49 percent in the U.S. His standing among American investors is even lower on economic matters: only a quarter of U.S. poll respondents rate his economic policies as "good" or "excellent," compared with more than half in Europe and Asia.

Obama's "stratospheric favorability ratings" outside the U.S. after five months in office are related to attitudes about his predecessor, former President George W. Bush, says J. Ann Selzer, the president of Selzer & Co., a Des Moines, Iowa-based polling firm that conducted the survey.

"It speaks as much to the visceral distaste for George Bush outside of the U.S," she says. In Europe and Asia, more than four of five poll respondents choose Obama over Bush as the president offering better economic leadership. In the U.S., investors pick Bush, 43 percent to 41 percent.

Brown, Putin, Lula

Worldwide, Obama has a 73 percent favorability rating, far higher marks than those of a sampling of other leaders, including U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who has a 34 percent favorable rating, President Vladimir Putin of Russia, with 23 percent, and President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil, with 49 percent.

Equity investors around the world have done well since Obama's Jan. 20 inauguration. The gains were most pronounced in Asia, where the MSCI Asia Pacific Index has risen 28 percent. In the U.S., the S&P 500 Index has risen 19 percent. The benchmark index for U.S. equities has rallied 41 percent over the past four months, led by a 95 percent rise in financial firms. European investors, though they are more bullish on Obama than their U.S. counterparts, have fared less well: The Eurostoxx 50 Index has risen 14 percent.

The poll of investors and analysts on six continents was conducted July 14-17. It's based on interviews with a random sample of 1,076 Bloomberg subscribers, representing decision makers in markets, finance and economics. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Fixed-Income, Equity

There isn't much difference in favorability ratings for Obama across professions. Among respondents in the fixed-income sector, he gets 70 percent, while his rating with equity investors, it is 71 percent.

A plurality of all investors, 43 percent, rate Obama's economic policies as good or excellent. Twenty-eight percent say they are average and the same number say they are below average or poor.

Obama's policies for handling of the crises in the financial and auto markets, is praised by Italian poll respondent Mario Di Marcantonio, a 32-year-old portfolio manager for Eurizon Capital SGR in Milan.

"Companies like Goldman and Morgan Stanley have been able to survive this crisis and do business as usual, and people working at GM will continue to have their jobs," he says. "I don't think they can solve the problems of the world overnight, but at least they're starting to fix it."

Government Bailouts

The views of Chris Gurkovic, a 36-year-old strategist for First Brokers Securities LLC in Jersey City, are typical of many U.S. respondents. He says bailouts of the auto and financial industries and Obama's health-care proposals are making Americans like him nervous about the government's role in the economy, and rates the president "very unfavorably" in the survey.

"I feel that we're becoming a socialist nation," Gurkovic says. "It's not a step in the right direction; the big- government policies kind of scare me."

Brown, the U.K. prime minister, gets low grades across the board. This is particularly true in Europe, where only one- quarter of respondents gave him a favorable rating.

Putin also gets bad marks from these investors, including those in Asia, where half of the respondents give him an unfavorable rating.

Brazil's Lula does better, though about one-third of the poll participants say they have "no idea" how they feel about him.

The political profile of the majority of global investors in the poll is similar to Obama's coalition. Half say they consider themselves either left of center or centrist; 42 percent say they are right of center. In the U.S., 43 percent of respondents describe themselves this way.

Obama does best with those who describe themselves as on the left: 94 percent of respondents in that group rate him favorably, compared with 80 percent of those in the center and 60 percent of those on the political right.

To contact the reporter on this story: Heidi Przybyla at hprzybyla@bloomberg.net

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