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Gibbs Hedges On Obama Stocks Comment

It sure sounded like President Obama was sending a buy signal to investors today – but his spokesman says not really.

"I guess I didn't read into it as much as many people may have," said Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

But Mr. Obama's comments seemed difficult to misinterpret.

"What you're seeing is profit and earning ratios are starting to get to the point where buying stocks is a potentially good deal if you've got a long-term perspective on it," the president said when asked about yesterday's plunge on Wall Street, which sent the Dow Jones Index to its lowest number since 1997.

Realizing that the president shouldn't be giving advice to investors, Gibbs tried to laugh it off. "I will ask him if he's got any particular tips for you," he said. "Maybe I should have cornered him and gotten a few of my own."

But the questions about it kept coming at Gibbs at his afternoon briefing for reporters.

"He basically said stocks look like they're good deals," said one journalist. "Is he encouraging people to buy stocks?"

"I will ask him," said Gibbs, adding that Mr. Obama's comment only reflected his oft-stated expression of confidence in the steps his new administration is taking to help the economy reverse course and resume growth.

In fact in the very next sentence after his investment suggestion, the president said he sees consumer confidence in the $787-billion economic stimulus bill he signed two weeks ago.

"Businesses are starting to see opportunities for investment and potential hiring, we are going to start creating jobs again," he said.

A moment earlier, Mr. Obama told reporters he can't base his policies or economic assumptions on "day-to-day gyrations of the stock market." He offered a political metaphor.

"The stock market is sort of like a tracking poll in politics," said the president. "It bobs up and down, day to day, and if you spend all your time worrying about that, then you're probably going to get the long-term strategy wrong."

That sounded like a disclaimer – especially if you take the president's advice, buy some stock, and it doesn't deliver.

As they say on Wall Street – read your prospectus carefully before investing.

Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here.
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