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For Wall St., Iowa is just a corn field

Barring any surprise victories in Thursday's caucuses, it will be a bit longer before the presidential campaign garners investor attention.

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By David Ellis, CNNMoney.com staff writer

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The race for the White House heats up with Thursday's Iowa Caucus. But right now, Wall Street couldn't care less about the results.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The results from Thursday's Iowa caucuses will most likely monopolize front page headlines in the nation's daily newspapers the following day, but only a huge turn of events would likely interest Wall Street.

With no clear front-runner for either the political party and the general election more than 10 months away, market experts argue that investors are instead focused on more timely issues like the health of the economy, the risk of more troubling credit market news and Friday's December employment report.

"My guess is what happens in Iowa will not have a big impact," said Bill Rhodes, chief investment strategist at the Boston-based research firm Rhodes Analytics.

What happens in Iowa on Thursday is anyone's guess based on the latest polling numbers. Within the Democratic camp, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., is enjoying a narrow lead over rivals Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and 2004 vice-presidential nominee John Edwards, according to Pollster.com.

The latest figures also suggest a horse race for the GOP nod as former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee tries to sustain his slim advantage over former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

With Wall Street assuming that it could take at least several more weeks before a front runner for either party emerges, only a monumental surprise or a big showing by one candidate from either party would grab investors' attention, said Fred Dickson, chief market strategist at D.A. Davidson & Co.

"Any kind of shakeup that puts more uncertainty into the field I think is going to have an effect on the market," said Dickson.

But Wall Street's indifference about Thursday's results doesn't mean that investors view presidential politics as trivial.

In fact, investors spend a lot of time positioning themselves to profit from what happens in the presidential campaign. Developments in the presidential race, for example, can even trump corporate results or an economic report as the race nears its finale.

Uncertainty about the outcome of the 2004 presidential campaign, for example, pressured stocks as polls showed President Bush and Sen. John Kerry neck and neck in the final weeks of the campaign.

So when does Wall Street start paying attention to the latest polling numbers? Most market experts expect investor interest to perk up some time after next week's New Hampshire primary and certainly by the 24-state "Super Tuesday" primaries on Feb. 5.

"Wall Street will quickly turn from fourth quarter results and the economic outlook to campaign positions and the front runners," said Dickson.

And of course as the candidates begin to outline their economic policies and their stances on trade, taxes and business regulation proposals, investors will be paying close attention.

John Edwards' op-ed piece in Wednesday's edition of The Wall Street Journal, certainly garnered plenty of attention as he proposed capping untaxed pay for executives and entrusting shareholders with greater power to combat excessive executive pay.

"Political rhetoric is going to torque up as we get into the election year," said Jeffrey Saut, chief investment strategist for Raymond James. "Just the talk of it is going to be a headwind." To top of page

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