President Bush's victory has turned energy and health care investors into big winners as well.
Oil-related firms like
-- a major player in Iraq -- looked especially slick on Wednesday. But health care companies, which stand to profit from Bush's new Medicare policies, rallied hard as well. Pharmacy benefit managers, banking on increased business from seniors, enjoyed particularly strong gains.
"The stock market wanted Bush to win," explained David Edwards of Heron Capital Management. "It wanted the uncertainty to be over ... it got what it needs."
But some sectors, like energy, could wind up with a bigger windfall than most.
"The oil patch has never had a friendlier administration in the White House," said Fadel Gheit, an energy analyst at Oppenheimer. Now, "there is no limit to how high oil prices can go."
Jake Dollarhide, president of Longbow Asset Management in Tulsa, said he loaded up on extra shares of his two industry favorites --
-- upon foreseeing a Bush victory. Looking ahead, Dollarhide says he sees "no end in sight for $50 or even $70 oil."
Gheit was already bullish on oil majors like
and Exxon Mobil even before the apparent Bush victory. But he may now review his cautious stand on exploration and production companies that are more directly affected by energy prices.
Gheit believes that Bush's supporters in the industry would be "very happy with $60 oil," even though he himself worries about a negative impact on the country overall.
Meanwhile, at least two energy-related firms have already enjoyed upgrades.
, which has weathered a cool reception on Wall Street, is now rated buy at Fulcrum. And
has been raised to neutral by J.P. Morgan despite weak results that caused at least one other analyst to downgrade the stock.
To be fair, Fulcrum analyst Duane Grubert pointed to a new pipeline project as a primary reason for raising his outlook for Unocol. But he also mentioned $50 oil -- considered by some as more sustainable under Bush -- as a factor as well.
Grubert said the market has valued Unocol's shares on the basis of $27 oil instead. He believes that discount, coupled with the company's falling risk profile, makes the stock attractive. Until now, he has remained cautious on the company, in part because of its inability to meet investor expectations.
"Execution blunders have been too frequent," he acknowledged. But "Unocol is running out of ways to mess up. ... It's time to upgrade" the stock.
Unocol jumped 2% to $42.54 -- outperforming the broader market -- after the report.
BJ Services also rose, inching up 39 cents to $46.97, despite conflicting notes from analysts. Michael LaMotte of J.P. Morgan upgraded the stock because he believes that reduced expectations from investors have created upside potential for the shares. At the same time, however, Robert MacKenzie of Friedman Billings Ramsey downgraded the company for recently letting investors down. Both analysts now have a neutral rating on the shares.
Elsewhere in the market, health care stocks rocketed without any help from upgrades.
, a major player in the Medicare market, surged 18% to $41 after handily beating third-quarter estimates and raising its outlook for the future. The company posted quarterly profits of 94 cents a share that topped the consensus estimate by 6 cents. It also expects to deliver full-year earnings of between $3.15 and $3.20 a share instead of the $3.14 Wall Street had anticipated.
It pointed to growth in both its senior and commercial business lines as the reason for its success.
also beat expectations on strength in its health care business. The company reported third-quarter profits of $1.77 a share that beat the consensus estimate by 38 cents. Its stock jumped 2.5% to $65.03 on the news.
"Our health care segment earnings reflect the progress we continue to make in medical management, service and underwriting," said CEO Edward Hanway. "We are successfully lowering our customers' medical cost trends while maintaining the industry's highest quality results."
The major PBMs -- set to profit from a new Medicare drug benefit -- jumped on no news at all, beyond the president's re-election.
enjoyed the biggest gain, soaring 8.5% to $31.09.
climbed 6.3% to $36.11. And
rose 5.8% to $67.08.
Hospital companies, looking for growth in Medicare revenue, also rallied. Even troubled
, which reported a quarterly loss on Election Day, continued to rise despite fresh words of caution from a veteran healthcare analyst.
Fulcrum analyst Sheryl Skolnick doubts the stock, up 2.6% to $10.87 on Wednesday, is really worth what it's fetching. Still, she continues to maintain her neutral rating on the company.
"We are resigned because no matter what the reality of the situation ... support for the shares around the current price remains amazingly resilient," she wrote. But "Tenet is only barely in control of its own destiny and, in our view, remains significantly overvalued."
To be sure, most stocks seemed to benefit from Bush's expected victory. But some investment experts still expressed concern about the market's future performance. They specifically pointed to high oil prices as a threat to the country's businesses.
"Oil prices were going down earlier in the week, when people thought Kerry would win," says Massachusetts investment strategist Peter Cohan. "But now it's going back to where it was before. The fear premium is rising."
Gheit tends to agree.
"People probably voted for stability," he said. "But that doesn't mean things will improve. ... I don't expect any significant changes anytime soon."