On Saturday, millions of Americans across 17 states found themselves in an unfamiliar situation: they couldn't rely on the US government for their daily foodstamp-funded bread. The result was anger, confusion and sometimes, outright panic, as shoppers left their full shopping carts in stores, and departed their favorite general retailer in a daze. However, while most outlets that accepted EBT were experiencing a one-day, non-recurring hit to their EPS, several Walmart stores in Louisiana decided to brave through the Xerox-induced blackout for several hours by eliminating the spending caps on EBT cards, leading to nothing short of shopping stampedes. The result, as CBS reports, is that "Walmart and local police ... were called into the stores to help maintain order Saturday as shoppers swept through the aisles at two stores and bought as much as they could carry."
It’s a Myth that the U.S. Has Never Defaulted On Its Debt
“There is precedent for a government shutdown,” Lloyd Blankfein, the chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs, remarked last week. “There’s no precedent for default.” How wrong he is.
The popular take on the current debt ceiling stand-off is that the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party has a delusional belief that it can hit the brakes on new debt creation without bringing on an economic catastrophe. While Republicans are indeed kidding themselves if they believe that their actions will not unleash deep economic turmoil, there are much deeper and more significant delusions on the other side of the aisle. Democrats, and the President in particular, believe that continually taking on more debt to pay existing debt is a more responsible course of action. Even worse, they appear to believe that debt accumulation is the equivalent of economic growth.
Only a week ago, the consensus among most mainstream economic analysts and even some alternative analysts was that a government shutdown was not going to happen. The Republicans would fold in the shadow of President Barack Obama’s overwhelming drive for socialization, spending would continue to grow unabated, and the debt ceiling would be vaulted yet again to feed the bureaucratic machine with more fiat. Today, there is no consensus, very few people continue to be so blithely self-assured and even the mainstream is beginning to wonder if a much bigger game is afoot here.
While there is hope that DC will engage in its favorite, can-kicking activity any minute and if not resolve then at least push back the funding and debt ceiling stalemate by a few weeks, the reality is that without a deal in seven days, there may be no cash to pay down maturing Bills starting with the October 17 issue whose yield soared to nearly 50 bps yesterday. The reason for the capitulation as was revealed yesterday, is that various money market funds such as Fidelity's have been selling all paper around the X-Date. This morning the contagion surrounding the use of Bills as collateral has crossed the Pacific, following news that the "Hong Kong’s futures and options market operator will require traders to put up more collateral when using some Treasury bills to back their positions, citing concern that the U.S. is at risk of a default." In other words, as we forecast on Monday, the debt-ceiling confusion in cash-land has now openly engulfed the repo market, which only makes the states of a debt deal that much higher. Because if the repo, $2.5 trillion money market, and subsequently, the entire $80 or so trillion custodian market freeze up, what happens next will make Lehman seem like a quiet walk in the park.
When on October 1, fallen billionaire Eike Batista's OGX Petroleo & Gas, missed a $45 million bond coupon payment, some were surprised but most had seen the writing on the wall. After all, Brazil's second largest oil company after Petrobras, and the crowning jewel of Batista's EBX Group, had been under the microscope of investors and certainly creditors (and if it wasn't it certainly should have been) after oil deposits that Batista had valued at $1 trillion turned out to be commercial failures. And so the countdown to the inevitable bankruptcy filing began. Overnight, Bloomberg reports that the wait should not be long (in fact it may coincide with the default of that other insolvent mega-creditor: the United States), and will mostly certainly take place before the end of the month, following the retention of bankruptcy specialist law firm Quinn Emanuel.
- Janet Yellen, a Backer of Pushing the Fed's Policy Boundaries (WSJ)
- Jos. A. Bank proposes to buy Men's Wearhouse for $2.3 billion (Reuters)
- J.P. Morgan to Cull Business Clients (WSJ)
- RBS Said to Pass Currency Trader Chats to FCA Amid Probe (BBG)
- Prosecutors give SAC settlement ultimatum (FT)
- U.S. builders hoard mineral rights under new homes (Reuters)
- Bill Comes Due for Brazil's Middle Class (WSJ)
- US expected to slash aid to Egyptian government (AP)
- Samsung launches world's first smartphone with curved screen (Reuters)
- Microsoft’s $7.2 Billion Nokia Bet Not Luring Apps (BBG)
- China raises hurdles for foreign banks (FT)
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.
In an ominous supplication to the fact that a deal may not be coming President Obama admitted that his administration is "exploring all contingencies on the debt limit." We assume, given his dismissal of the 14th Amendment and the idiocy ("there are no magic bullets" to avoid default) of the trillion-dollar-coin and premium-bond issuance to the Fed, this implies - unlike the ECB - that they are conceding it is possible we cross the "X" date. His remarks were a perfect rehash of everything he has said before... unless the Republicans stop demanding 100% of what they want and give him 100% of what he wants, he will not negotiate. In Summary: no negotiation with extremists holding hostages
- Hilsenrath: Tense Negotiations Inside the Fed Produced Muddled Signals to Markets (WSJ)
- Biggest US Foreign Creditors Show Concern on Default Risk (BBG)
- Shutdown Costs at $1.6 Billion With $160 Million Each Day (BBG)
- What default? Republicans downplay impact of U.S. debt limit (Reuters)
- Top Bankers Warn on U.S. Debt Proposal (WSJ)
- India to stick with austerity despite looming election (Reuters)
- Japan's Current-Account Surplus Plunges (WSJ)
- Amazon Wins Ruling for $600 Million CIA Cloud Contract (BBG)
- German Factory Orders Unexpectedly Fall on Weak Recovery (BBG)
- Britain's Higgs, Belgium's Englert win 2013 physics Nobel prize (Reuters)
- Supreme Owner Made a Billionaire Feeding U.S. War Machine (BBG)
We strongly suspect that both government debt growth and money supply inflation will continue unabated – any pause will immediately bring about the kind of short term economic pain these policies have explicitly sought to prevent and will therefore be quickly reversed. It is not unlike the situation the revolutionary assembly of France found itself in during the late 18th century: when it issued new money, industry seemed to revive. As soon as it stopped, industry slumped again. And so it was decided to issue ever more money, until the entire scheme blew up. There can be little doubt that modern-day governments are on the road to a similar date with destiny – and lately the speed at which they travel toward it has increased markedly.
Youth unemployment around the world is dreadfully high and rising. An entire generation is now coming of age without being able to leave the nest or have any prospect of earning a decent wage in their home country. Young people in particular get the sharp end of the stick - they’re the last to be hired, the first to be fired, the first to be sent off to fight and die in foreign lands, and the first to have their benefits cut; and if they’re ever lucky enough to find meaningful employment, they can count on working their entire lives to pay down the debts of previous generations through higher and higher taxes. But when it comes time to collect... finally... those benefits won’t be there for them. Case in point: the British government has just announced a new push to eliminate benefits for young people. And this is just step 1.
It just keeps getting worse and worse for Bill Ackman. A few weeks after the epic humiliation, not to mention even more epic losses, he suffered on his now defunct JCP long position (despite ample warnings by the likes of Zero Hedge who said long ago JCP is merely a melting icecube and fast-track Chapter 11/7 candidate) all those who predicted (such as Zero Hedge back in January) that an epic HLF short squeeze would result in the aftermath of Ackman's Herbalife short announcement leading to Ackman's ultimate capitulation, have been proven correct. Moments ago, in a letter to investors, Bill Ackman just announced that he has covered over 40% of his Herbalife short position, with his forced buy-in explaining the endless move higher in Herbalife stock in recent weeks. The explanation of being forced out of nearly half of his position is amusing: "we minimize the risk of so-called short squeezes or other technical attempts by market manipulators to force us to cover our position." So Ackman is forced out by his Prime Brokers so as not to be forced out by market manipulators? That's an interesting explanation for what is a far simple situation: booking your paper losses.
- Government Shuts Down as Congress Misses Deadline (WSJ); Shutdown starts, 1 million workers on unpaid leave (Reuters); Government Shutdown Begins as Deadlocked Congress Flails (BBG)
- This is not The Onion: Stocks Rise on U.S. Government Shutdown (BBG)
- Pentagon chief says shutdown hurts U.S. credibility with allies (Reuters)
- In historic step, Japan PM hikes tax; will cushion blow to economy (Reuters)
- Obama Says He Won’t Give Into ‘Ideological’ Budget Demand (BBG)
- More part-time warehouse workers: Amazon to Hire 70,000 Workers for the Holidays (WSJ)
- Less full-time legitimate workers: Merck to fire 8,500 workers (BBG)
- Education cuts hit America’s poor (FT)
- Euro-Zone Factory Growth Slows (WSJ)
- Watchdog Warns EU Not to Water Down Insurance Rules (Reuters)