As President Obama pressed anew for a deal, Erskine Bowles said the White House won't insist that the top tax rate be increased to the Clinton-era level of 39.6% as part of a deficit-reduction deal.
The new clarity of the White House position marks a potentially important moment in Washington's effort to figure out how to handle tax rates that are due to snap higher next year, one of the thorniest elements of the so-called fiscal cliff.
Some Republicans saw it as a hopeful sign that could lead to a compromise. Though GOP leaders remain opposed to raising top rates and want more details on potential entitlement cuts, the White House move opens a range of possibilities for negotiators.
The debate among Democrats and Republicans over how to avert $500 billion in spending cuts and tax increases has left stock-market investors reacting to each profession of optimism and pessimism from officials.