The recent fiscal cliff negotiations were almost a textbook case of the game theory's Prisoner's Dilemma... resulting in the same sub-optimal outcome. All the posturing and political strutting were more about trying to obtain personal advantage over the other players, not actually fixing anything. The fiscal cliff, in fact, stopped being about the US economy a long, long time ago. The uncomfortable truth that nobody in officialdom wants to admit (save outgoing Congressman Ron Paul) is that the fiscal situation is unfixable. Meanwhile, the debt ceiling has already been breached, and the Obama administration is scurrying to seize federal pensions as a temporary fix. Seriously, how long will it be before they start seizing private pensions, IRAs, etc.? How long before mutual funds and banks are required to hold a percentage of their assets in the 'safety and security' of US Treasuries? How long until everyone is involuntarily financing Uncle Sam?
The 'deal' didn't surprise CNBC's Rick Santelli as he notes the administration did the "easy thing" once again. However, he does think the coming battle in 6-8 weeks regarding the debt ceiling will be surprising to many and believes "there has to be an endgame to insanity." Rick's rightly cynical perspective on the euphoric opening gap today in stocks and bonds (and questioning the veracity of manipulated 'market' prices) appears as frustrating to him as "watching politicians all slap each other on the back while the country slips into a Grecian like formula."
For those bored with watching how much higher Getco and Citadel's algos can take the market on a resolution that is adverse for the US economy, that cuts consumer spending and cash flow, that does not address the real issue: government drunken sailor spending, and that means America will now labor for the next two months without being able to incur one additional dollar in net debt courtesy of breaching the debt ceiling on the last day of 2012 - in other words your typical kick-the-can-for-two-more-months non deal, we have good news: Jim Grant of Grant's Interest Rate Observer has released a compilation of his best articles from the past year for free to anyone who still cares about what actually may be happening in the US economy, besides the obvious - endless fiscal and monetary stimuli from both the Fed and Congress, which like, any lunch, are never free, even if the final invoice may take a while to arrive.
JPM's Michael Feroli, who already quantified the impact of the 2% payroll tax cut expiration at $125 billion, has estimated the impact of the Fiscal Cliff on the US economy for 2012. The verdict: 1%. This is just on the Obama tax [cut|hike]. If and when any spending cuts are actually announced or enacted, this number will only go up, as will apparently the market.
"The scaled-down deal passed in the Senate addressed the fiscal cliff but did nothing to address longer term fiscal health of the nation. This puts the US rating at risk for a downgrade. However, credit rating agencies may decide to wait and see what emerges from the subsequent talks. There is an implicit new cliff at the end of February related to the sequester and to the expected exhaustion of extraordinary measures related to the debt ceiling. This date is expected to be used by Republicans as leverage for spending cuts. President Obama has already signaled that a new round of spending cuts – those related to the sequester as well as entitlement spending – will have to be matched by additional revenue increases. Therefore entitlement and tax reform are likely to be at the center of discussions over the next two months."
And so after much pomp and posturing over the past 48 hours, much of which will likely reshape the layout of the GOP in both chambers, both the Senate and the House passed the first concurrent tax hike and permanent tax cuts in about two decades. The net result of this will be a roughly 1% drag on GDP, even as the US budget deficit increases relative to the CBO's old baseline, and the beneficial impact from the tax hikes offsets roughly two weeks of spending. In other words, while addressing the tax part of the equation, politicians delayed the spending part of the problem for exactly 60 days by punting on the expiration of the sequester, or the government spending cuts. They also delayed addressing the debt ceiling, perhaps the most integral part of the Fiscal Cliff, which has now been breached and which as of this moment means the US can't incur one additional dollar in additional debt. So looking forward it means the US now has about 4 separate cliffs: the debt ceiling cliff in February/March, the sequester cliff in March, the farm bill cliff in September and the expiration of jobless benefits on December.But that's all in the future, and it will all be a function of just how quickly the GOP rolls over to once again confirm that when it comes to the stock market, America has just one political party. The party of up at all costs, which in turn is manifested right now in the first futures print of the New Year, with both the S&P and the DJIA futures up nearly 2%, and with the E-Mini up some 50 points, or half a turn of S&P multiple expansion in two trading sessions: a nice rally to show just who Washington truly works for.
US Vice President Biden and Senate Minority leader McConnell brokered an agreement that was approved by the Senate that seems to avoid the full fiscal cliff. It now is before the House of Representatives.
While the Jan 1 deadline is passed, the more significant one, we had argued was Jan 3, when a new Congress is sworn in. A failure by the 112th Congress to finalize the legislation would mean that process would have to begin anew with the 113th Congress.
After what is likely to be intense though short debate, the House of Representatives can either approve the same exact bill the Senate approved, which be the quickest resolution. It can seek to amend the bill, in which case it must return to the Senate for their approval. The process could be cumbersome and require reconciliation and would risk the Jan 3 deadline. Alternatively, a majority of the House could fail to ratify the Senate bill, in which case, it will be up the next Congress to claw back from the other side of the cliff.
- A close vote before 6PM – Asian markets open up, catching up to the Monday S&P move; S&P futures probably have priced in most of the benefit of the fiscal cliff resolution. EUR CAD, and AUD have a bit of catching up to do with the S&P, but there should be little drama
- A rancorous debate that extends into the night – again the key will be whether the votes are there, however, reluctantly, but if it looks as if support is waning we will see sharp moves in markets. With brinkmanship the new normal, the sell-off will be partial on the view that a last minute rabbit will be pulled from a hat.
- Amendments or rejection – markets will sell off sharply. If it turns out that the House can’t vote ‘yes’ on an acceptable, yet inelegant fix, the confidence that has emerged in 11th hour fixes will dissipate and tail risk scenarios will shift into baseline outcomes. This would be USDJPY negative, but risk-correlated currencies now price in 80-90% probably of a successful fix in our view, so the downside pressures will be large.
On The New Definition Of "Rich", A $620 Billion Tax Hike Offset By $15 Billion In Spending Cuts, And Much MoreSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/01/2013 10:49 -0400
We greet the new year with an America that has a Fiscal Cliff deal. Actually no, it doesn't - not even close. What it does have is an agreement, so far only at the Senate level which voted a little after 2 AM eastern in an 89-8 vote (Nays from Democrats Bennet, Cardin, Harkin, and Republicans - Lee, Paul, Grassley, Rubio and Shelby), to delay the all-important spending side of the Fiscal Cliff "deal" which "can is kicked" in the form of a 60 day extension to the sequester, to be taken up "eventually", but hopefully not on day 59 at the 11th hour, the same as fate of the all important US debt ceiling, which remains in limbo, and which now effectively prohibits America from incurring any new gross debt as the $16.4 trillion debt ceiling was breached yesterday... What did happen last night was merely the legislating of the inevitable tax hike on the 1%, which was assured the night Obama won the presidential election, something not even the most rabid Norquist pledge signatories had hope of avoiding. This was the first income tax hike in nearly two decades. A tax hike which, regardless of how it is spun, will result in a drag in consumption. It was also the brand new definition of rich, with the "$250,000" income threshold now left in the dust, and $400,000 for individuals ($450,000 for joint filers) taking its place. Who knew that New Normal would also bring us the New Rich definition. What is generally known is that the Senate bill boils down to the folllowing: $620 billion in tax hikes over the next decade offset by $15 billion in spending cuts now. Hardly "fair and balanced." Anyone who, therefore, thinks this bill is a slam dunk in the House is a brave gambling man.
Well, we appear to be nearing a mini 'delay' deal of some sort. The agglomeration of headlines continues with Senate deals on and off, Biden proclaiming victory yet Senate Democrats are said not have consented (yet).
- *WHITE HOUSE SAID TO REACH BUDGET DEAL WITH REPUBLICANS
- *SENATE FISCAL CLIFF VOTE POSSIBLE BY 10:30 P.M.: REID SPOKESMAN
- *SENATE DEMOCRATS SAID NOT TO HAVE CONSENTED TO DEAL
State of the idiocy appears to be: The 2-month sequester delay: cuts would come half from defense & half-non-defense. 2 month window to give all sides time for bigger deal. No debt ceiling resolution. Tax rises for 400/450k, Cap Gains/Dividend up to 20%, small rise in estate tax and restrictions on personal tax deductions. Simple - as we have said for a while - assuming this passes seamlessly, this is nothing but a can-kicking delay to the 'extraordinary' debt ceiling date - two words - Stop.Gap. And in two months, it's not just the sequester but the debt ceiling too. Enjoy your night.
S&P 500 futures staged a 3% rally off their overnight lows - taking them back to 3-day highs as headline after headline triggered another round of stop-runs. VIX compression led the way as hedges were pushed off to March and higher levels enabled better exits above Friday's plunge VWAP levels. The year ends with the Dow beating Gold for the first time in nine years (just). The USD fell 0.5% on the year (and the JPY -12.8%!!). European stocks beat US stocks (EuroStoxx50 almost doubling the Dow's performance). US Treasuries and US stocks both rallied. Financials gained 26% on the year. The Treasury curve flattened with the front-end selling off modestly and the belly rallying 10-15bps. VIX was unchanged from the start of the year at the open today - but thanks to the epic compression and steepening we have fallen back (VIX lower on the year). Of course, today's epic ramp really dislocated from risk-asset reality as soon as Bonds closed...
As we forecast back in November, it is now official that the House will not vote on any deal out of the Senate, assuming there is one, later today, which means America will officially slide off the Fiscal Cliff. And now cue everyone being very hopeful and optimistic a deal will get done momentarily, if not sooner, in 2013. Of course, we all know just how far optimism takes America's dysfunctional Congress. The biggest irony in all of this is that the only winners today were the much hated "1%"-ers, whose taxes may or may not go up, who just got to book major year end profits on this last minute ramp. The remainder of America's population can quietly look forward to 2013 with "hope" and "optimism" that in 2013 Congress will finally stop being dysfunctional. Good luck. Oh, and before we forget, America just breached its debt ceiling: now the pillaging of various government retirement funds begins.
No, it isn't the first time Obama has spoken on the Fiscal Cliff, and more importantly, the debt ceiling, which no matter what happens today appears set to remain unresolved as part of today's 60 day stopgap deal, if indeed one materializes. It won't be the last. There will be, however, much hope, optimism, and scapegoating, as always.
The crowds are slowly starting to fill up Times Square, and despite the imminent countdown to New Year’s, Washington still has not conjured up a resolution to avoid the fiscal cliff. Over the prior two months we have leveraged game theory, Venn diagrams, option “greeks,” and basic investor psychology as tools to decipher the ultimate path of the crisis and subsequent market reaction. Alas, regardless of all the analysis we and countless others have supplied; the short, intermediate, and long term prospects for stocks rest exclusively on headlines. More poignantly, the fate of the U.S. economy, global equities, and net incomes for hundreds of millions now depend upon the decision making of a group so small, its numbers can be counted with one hand.
With just 3 hours left in the trading day, why not up the stakes a little in the soap opera and take it straight to the star character:
- OBAMA MAKING STATEMENT ON BUDGET TALKS AT 1:30 P.M.
What will he disclose? Perhaps this, from the AP...