As we have discussed previously, the "partial government shutdown" that we are experiencing right now is pretty much a non-event - especially with the un-furloughing of The Pentagon. Yeah, some national parks are shut down and some federal workers will have their checks delayed, but it is not the end of the world. In fact, only about 17% of the federal government is actually shut down at the moment. This "shutdown" could continue for many more weeks and it would not affect the global economy too much. On the other hand, if the debt ceiling deadline (approximately October 17th) passes without an agreement that would be extremely dangerous. A U.S. debt default that lasts for more than a couple of days could potentially cause a financial crash that would make 2008 look like a Sunday picnic. If a debt default were to happen before the end of this year, that would bring a tremendous amount of future economic pain into the here and now, and the consequences would likely be far greater than any of us could possibly imagine.
Yesterday we described the various scenarios available to Treasury in the next few weeks should the shutdown and debt ceiling debacle carry on longer than the equity markets believe possible. As BofAML notes, however, the most plausible option for the Treasury could be implementing a delayed payment regime. In such a scenario, the Treasury would wait until it has enough cash to pay off an entire day’s obligations and then make those payments on a day-to-day basis. Given the lack of a precedent, it is hard to quantify the impact on the financial markets in the event that the Treasury was to miss payment on a UST; but the following looks at the impact on a market by market basis.
The US Federal Reserve’s recent surprise announcement that it would maintain the current pace of its monetary stimulus reflects the ongoing debate about the desirability of cooperation among central banks. Discussion of central-bank cooperation has often centered on a single historical case, in which cooperation initially seemed promising, but turned out to be catastrophic. We are thus left with a paradox: While crises increase demand for central-bank cooperation to deliver the global public good of financial stability, they also dramatically increase the costs of cooperation, especially the fiscal costs associated with stability-enhancing interventions. As a result, in the wake of a crisis, the world often becomes disenchanted with the role of central banks – and central-bank cooperation is, yet again, associated with disaster.
Following yesterday's unexpected (if not shocking) news that ministers from Berlusconi's PDL have resigned en masse in order to push for new elections, leading to the latest Italian government crisis (in a long and distinguished series), Italy's premier Letta and president Napolitano are scrambling to preserve some stability, and not only they but moments ago Ansa reported that the management and supervisory boards of Italian megabank Intesa are set to meet at 6 pm, as not even the most optimistic see an easy way out of the political dead end Italy has found itself in now.
With a government's October 1 shut down - temporary of course - now seemingly inevitable, and more importantly with the peak debt ceiling negotiations due in just about a week after which point the Treasury will run out of money, many wonder what comes next. That this is happening just two short years after the dramatic August 2011 debt ceiling impasse, when the market tumbled 20% and likely slowed economic growth is still fresh in everyone's mind, is hardly helping matters. Add a potential political crisis in Greece and Italy, and suddenly a whole lot of unexpected variables have to be "priced in."
Following yesterday's modest bounce in equities punctuated by the traditional last minute spike, sentiment has reverted lower once again, driven by the uncertainty surrounding debt ceiling talks in the US, where lawmakers have until next Tuesday to agree to a spending bill, or much of the government will shut down. The Senate will vote on a spending bill later today, which will then be sent back to the House putting republicans in a quandary (Politico explains the complications surrounding the GOP's "Plan C"). It was reported that US House leaders are considering postponing action on a bill to extend the US government's borrowing power, with the leadership discussing a change of strategy to complete action on the stopgap spending bill before debating the debt-limit debate. In FX, GBP strengthened across the board this morning after BoE’s Carney said he does not see a case for more quantitative easing.
- JPMorgan Guilty Admission a Win for SEC’s Policy Shift (BBG)
- Pricing Glitch Afflicts Rollout of Online Health Exchanges (WSJ)
- This will end well: Japan LDP Considers Draft Bill to Put Government in Control of Fukushima Cleanup (WSJ)
- How a German tech giant trims its U.S. tax bill (Reuters)
- Despite Merkel's Popularity, Angst Creeps In (WSJ)
- Hank Paulson warns of regulatory conflict (FT)
- Rajan Surprises With India Rate Rise to Quell Inflation (BBG)
- Apple Begins Selling New iPhones (WSJ)
- Pope Says Church Should Stop Obsessing Over Gays, Abortion (BBG)
Despite the Fed's strongest efforts at improving its 'communication', the average American is relatvely unaware of just what it is that QE does (and is). Reuters reports that a sad 73% of respondents could not define what the crucial-to-the-market's-survival program is with 12% of respondents believing QE was a computer-assisted program that the Fed uses to manipulate the dollar...
Compared with Japan, the United States national debt is a mere $17 trillion or so. But if you convert that number into yen, it comes to about 1.6 quadrillion.
We laugh at children when they talk about bazillions and gazillions but a quadrillion is no laughing matter. Measuring any currency in quadrillions brings to mind the many hyperinflations seen in the 20th and 21st centuries. For example, the powerful and very wealthy Germany in the early 1920s and wealthy Zimbabwe, the breadbasket of Africa in 2008.
Japan's soaring national debt is already more than twice the size of its economy.
Deflation - A derangement of money or credit, a symptom of which is falling prices. Not to be confused with a benign, i.e., downward shift in the composite supply curve, a symptom of which is also falling prices. In a genuine deflation, banks stop lending. Prices tumble because overextended businesses and consumers confront the necessity of selling assets in order to raise cash. When prices fall because efficient producers are competing to deliver lower-priced goods and services to the marketplace, that is called “progress.” In 2013, central bankers the world over define deflation as a fall in prices, no matter what the cause. Nowadays, to forestall what is popularly called deflation, the world’s monetary authorities are seemingly prepared to pull out every radical policy stop. Where it all ends is one of the great questions of contemporary finance.
While the issue of whether they will or won't taper is certainly still not clear, the WSJ's John Hilsenrath notes that the other dilemma facing the Fed is whether to reduce their purchases of Treasurys, mortgage-backed securities or both. According to officials, Hilsenrath notes, there were two lines of thinking at the Fed on how to structure a pullback from the bond programs and the issue would be discussed at the meeting. Goldman's Jan Hatzius has posited that "Fed leadership probably views MBS purchases as more effective in boosting economic activity than Treasury purchases," but as Hilsenrath notes, some Fed officials prefer a simpler-to-communicate strategy of proportional cutbacks to both MBS and Treasuries. The fact that Hilsy is reporting this suggests that a Taper is somewhat inevitable - as we have noted since the Fed remains cornered. On average, the market expects a $6bn taper on Treasuries and $3 billion for MBS.
With Syria now quickly fading from the headlines and Wall Street believing that Yellen is a "shoe in" for the Fed, what headwinds still remain for the markets ahead...
UPDATE: *GEITHNER STILL DOESN'T WANT TO BE CONSIDERED FOR FED CHIEF: WSJ
The next chairman's main job is going to be deciding how soon and how aggressively to pull back on Fed programs; and as none other than Fed whisperer John Hilsenrath notes, Larry Summers' withdrawal increases the likelihood of continuity in central-bank policy for the next few years - meaning any Fed wind-down of its easy-money programs will be slow and gradual. Of course he posits Yellen and Kohn as potential front-runners but throws Tim Geithner and Roger Ferguson back into the mix. Business-as-usual is back and the doves are in control - all the Fed needs now is bigger deficits to enable it to keep the pumps primed...
The froth is back. As we noted yesterday, corporate leverage has never been higher - higher now than when the Fed warned of froth, and as the BIS (following their "party's over" rant 3 months ago) former chief economist now warns, "this looks like to me like 2007 all over again, but even worse." The share of "leveraged loans" or extreme forms of credit risk, used by the poorest corporate borrowers, has soared to an all-time high of 45% - 10 percentage points higher than at the peak of the crisis in 2007. As The Telegraph reports, ex-BIS Chief Economist William White exclaims, "All the previous imbalances are still there. Total public and private debt levels are 30pc higher as a share of GDP in the advanced economies than they were then, and we have added a whole new problem with bubbles in emerging markets that are ending in a boom-bust cycle." Crucially, the BIS warns, nobody knows how far global borrowing costs will rise as the Fed tightens or “how disorderly the process might be... the challenge is to be prepared." This means, in their view, "avoiding the tempatation to believe the market will remain liquid under stress - the illusion of liquidity."
"A broad-based tax cut, for example, accommodated by a program of open-market purchases to alleviate any tendency for interest rates to increase, would almost certainly be an effective stimulant to consumption and hence to prices. Even if households decided not to increase consumption but instead re-balanced their portfolios by using their extra cash to acquire real and financial assets, the resulting increase in asset values would lower the cost of capital and improve the balance sheet positions of potential borrowers. A money-financed tax cut is essentially equivalent to Milton Friedman's famous "helicopter drop" of money ."
- Ben Bernanke, Deflation: Making Sure "It" Doesn't Happen Here, November 21, 2002