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Environmental Firms Expect Brighter Days Under Bill Clinton

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ENVIRONMENTALLY related industries - including anti-pollution companies, oil service firms, and the natural gas industry - are getting a new lease on life these days, thanks to the election of Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton.

Stock prices for many of these firms are heading up, based on the expectation that they will earn heftier profits under a Clinton-Gore administration than they would have earned under a second term for President Bush. The new administration - which made protecting the environment a key campaign theme - is expected to find ways of supporting environmental firms, either by channeling government contracts to such companies, promoting policies that encourage development of new environmentally sound products and services, "or enacting new regulations," according to Vishnu Swarup, an environmental specialist with Prudential Securities Inc.

During the campaign, both Mr. Clinton and Senator Al Gore stressed conservation to hold down oil imports. Clinton has long expressed his support for natural gas over oil or nuclear power. And he has called for a halt to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as well as offshore drilling.

Until recently, environmental stocks had not performed particularly well this year. Pollution- control stocks, for example, have underperformed the broader stock market in terms of earnings. That underperformance reflects the weak economy and the price cutting, which some companies have engaged in to protect their market shares. But in the past month or so, pollution-control stocks have had a rally that is clearly linked to expectations of better gains under the Clinton White House, notes Charles LoCastr o, a pollution-control expert with Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Inc.

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