There's an old maxim that war is good for the economy - the victor's economy, anyway. Apparently it's still widely accepted. The sharp rise in stock markets around the world indicates high hopes for the economic consequences of the gulf war.

Much depends, of course, on the duration of the conflict.The United States went to war last week as it lay in the slough of recession. The downturn reflected several factors: a loss of consumer confidence, artificially high oil prices and a caution among investors that stilled the markets. Each of these weaknesses could only be aggravated by an inconclusive war.

On the other hand, each might be reversed with a quick victory. If the good news continues, we can expect oil prices to continue their decline.

Partly by accident, partly by design, the war begins with worldwide oil reserves at one of their highest points in 10 years. President Bush also ordered an emergency drawdown of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve - a hefty 1.1 million barrels a day for a month - as a hedge against a sharp escalation of international oil prices. Though a wise precaution, it not have been necessary.

Other problems could prove more intractable. A surge of national confidence could lead to a rebound, but surveys show consumers edgy about unemployment and collapsing real estate values; neither worry would be ameliorated by a military win. And the problem of tight credit, already choking some businesses, will most likely remain.

So we should beware old maxims. But neither should we underestimate the economic resiliency of a country that's just won a war.