Obama presents team to navigate US economic crisis

CHICAGO Mon Nov 24, 2008 2:04am EST

CHICAGO Nov 24 (Reuters) - President-elect Barack Obama takes his first major step toward addressing the U.S. financial crisis on Monday, presenting the team that will steer his economic policies and navigate a potentially deep recession.

Obama, who takes over for President George W. Bush on Jan. 20, announces his appointments at an 11 a.m. CST (1700 GMT) news conference, with financial markets watching for specifics about his plans to stimulate the economy and save jobs.

Obama also is likely to be quizzed about his thoughts on bailing out U.S. auto producers and other companies in his first economic test since winning the Nov. 4 election.

The scope of the economic crisis has widened in the 20 days since Obama's White House win. Auto companies warned they were short on cash, unemployment numbers rose, and Citigroup took the U.S. government on as a shareholder.

"The stakes are high," said Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University.

"This is a really dangerous moment ... for the economy. It's almost as if no one's in control. Now people are looking to (Obama) to find out at least what's going to happen in the next few months, if not the next few weeks."

Except for one short news conference, Obama has kept a low public profile since his victory over Republican John McCain, remaining in Chicago to pick his Cabinet but not formally announcing any of his choices.

By breaking that near-silence with the unveiling of his economic team, Obama signaled the priority he places on addressing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

The big players on his team are already known.

Timothy Geithner, 47, president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, will become Treasury secretary, and Lawrence Summers, 53, a former Treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton, will be director of the National Economic Council.

U.S. stocks rallied late on Friday after news leaks about Geithner's appointment.

In addition to personnel, Obama has laid the groundwork for a massive new two-year economic stimulus package, which he proposed on Saturday, combining middle-class tax cuts and spending on infrastructure to help save 2.5 million jobs.

Obama did not spell out the size of the package, but top Democrats said it could cost hundreds of billions of dollars.

(Editing by Vicki Allen)

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