WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kerry has taken the lead for the Democratic presidential nomination away from former Gov. Howard Dean, according to two markets that allow investors to trade on candidates’ futures.

Dean had been the prohibitive favorite to win the nomination to challenge President Bush.

On the University of Iowa’s political market, the odds of a Dean nomination peaked at about 75 percent in early December. On Tuesday, the odds that Dean would win the nomination fell to just 24 percent from more than 50 percent on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Kerry’s support in the Iowa market has risen from just 12 percent on Saturday to about 35 percent early Tuesday.

Investors will collect $1 for each contract they hold for the candidate who wins the nomination. Kerry contracts were going for about 35 cents, while Dean’s were fetching 24 cents. The Iowa market is limited to investments of $500.

Other Democrats have scant support in the Iowa market. Retired Gen. Wesley Clark was at 16 percent, Sen. Joseph Lieberman was at 1 percent and Sen. Hillary Clinton was at 1.5 percent. The rest of the field, including Sen. John Edwards, was trading at 21 percent.

On Tuesday, the Iowa market was forecasting that President Bush would receive about 56 percent of the popular vote in the final election, up from about 53 percent on Saturday.

A similar political market run by the Irish exchange, intrade.com, also showed a surge for Kerry and a collapse for Dean on Tuesday. Dean’s prospectus fell from 49 percent on Monday to 27 percent early Tuesday, while Kerry’s chances for the nomination rose from 18 percent to 37 percent.

Edwards’ chances improved from 9 percent to 20 percent.

But Bush is still the overwhelming favorite to win re-election at 70 percent, down slightly from 71.5 percent on Monday.

(c) 2004, MarketWatch.com Inc.

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Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-01-20-04 1732EST

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