Bank holiday?

At the end of last year, I performed a Google News search of the following terms: “Obama” and “bank holiday.” I got ten hits. Today, on Inauguration Day, I get… uh oh, 32.

And unlike three weeks ago, a much higher percentage comes from mainstream sources. In fact, the first one comes straight from the Gray Lady.

On March 5 of that year, a day after he became president, Roosevelt responded to the devastating string of bank failures by declaring a bank holiday that closed all banks and halted all financial transactions, allowing the start of the arduous process of restoring public confidence in the system.

None of Mr. Obama’s advisers are suggesting a bank holiday. But like Roosevelt’s move, the details of the Obama administration’s rescue efforts are expected to begin to emerge quickly after the new president takes office.

True, we’re not experiencing the sort of utter meltdown that took place in the four-month interregnum between FDR’s election and inauguration. But the omens from overseas are bad, and they come just days after Bank of America came back to feed at the TARP trough.

Fully one-quarter of the big U.S. retail chains could have a brush with death this year, and God knows what sort of cascade effect that’ll have on commercial real estate and whatever securitized house of cards the banking system built on top of it.

There’s any number of ways an investor can play the arrival of the new administration. Thing is, they’re all pretty nebulous. Are Treasuries due for a hard fall? Seems an obvious call, but as we pointed out two weeks ago, maybe not. Alternative energy? Sure, but you better know what you’re doing trying to pick winners and losers. On the other hand, if you knew who the new president is listening to on vital scientific issues, you’d have a very good idea how to play it…