Debt Ceiling

The 96 Charts That Have To Be Seen To Believed For 2013

In many respects, 2012 was a year of waiting: waiting for a path forward on the European debt crisis; waiting for the results of a polarizing U.S. election; waiting for the Chinese leadership transition; waiting for a resolution to the U.S. fiscal cliff issues; waiting for the Middle East to find peace; waiting for a clear path to global growth; and therefore, waiting to invest additional assets in the markets (or not, as the case may be). In this 2013 Outlook, Michael Cembalest, JPMorgan Asset Management's Chairman of Market and Investment Strategy, provides a comprehensive summary of the global factors at play, with a tone of optimism grounded in realism. Perhaps just what we need after the surreality of the last two days.

Replaying Chris Christie's Epic Anti-Boehner Meltdown

Earlier today, in what can only be summarized as an epic meltdown, NJ governor Chris Christie proceeded with an even more epic rant against House speaker John Boehner, in narrow terms, and House Republicans in broader, for killing the $60 billion Sandy Assistance bill, whose funding would have offset one full year of the just legislated tax hikes on the rich which would add $62 billion annually to the Treasury (or alternatively would have been unfundable for the next 2 months while the US struggles to pay its mandatory bills courtesy of having breached the debt ceiling). Alternatively, all Americans could just agree to accept less welfare and entitlement benefits to show their solidarity for New Jersey and fund the recovery of the Tristate area by a "shared sacrifice" instead of going the default route and demanding even more deficit spending - something that would naturally saddle the next generation with even more pain, not the current, far more entitled one - but in this country that is an absolutely ludicrous proposition. Below is a clip of the entire Christie performance which is a must see for sheer indignation entertainment value alone.

Fiscal Cliff Loose Ends

The fiscal cliff deal appears to be a done deal and markets have reacted accordingly (although President Obama is apparently awaiting a photo-op later today to sign it). However, the deal leaves a large number of loose ends that ensure high drama for the next two months on the US fiscal front. The immediate impact of all the loose ends and deadlines may be smaller than the Dec 31 fiscal cliff, but all of these loose ends are important and could lead to short-term price action. Several of them are very important for the long run USD outlook as well.

Marc To Market's picture

 

While elated that the full 3.5% US fiscal drag was avoided, many observers are understandably dissatisfied with the fiscal compromise that was struck.

 

Marianne Faithfull's song "What's the Hurry" may ironically offer some insight. She asked, "What's the panic, where's the static?" That seems to be the key. The fiscal cliff in the US was never about economics, but always about politics. The politicians had tied their own hands and lo and behold figured out a way to untie them.

 

Politicians, regardless of nationality or political persuasion, like the people they represent, are loath to make difficult decisions unless they are forced. The pressures that usually emanates from large deficits and debt is inflation and higher interest rates. These are not present in the US. Contrary to the claims of many economists, US interest rates remain low as does inflation.

 

Total Debt: $16,432,730,050,569.12; Debt To GDP: 103%

We already knew that the US crossed the debt ceiling on New Year's day. It is, however, one thing to read a Geithner press release, it is another to see America's ridiculous debt it in action. So here it is, courtesy of TreasuryDirect, in all its debt ceiling glory: $16,432,730,050,569.12, with the debt subject to the ceiling at the limit of $16.394 trillion.

And with that we can close the books on the first quarter of Fiscal 2013, in which US public debt grew by $366 billion, some $122 billion per month on average.

Moody's Warns On USAAA Rating; IMF Piles On

Moody's has stepped forward with the first warning shot across the bow that:

  • *MOODY'S: MORE MEDIUM TERM ACTIONS MAY BE NEEDED TO SUPPORT Aaa

Has contradicted itself (from September) on the debt-ceiling breach; and warns that while the deal 'mitigates' some fiscal drag, it does not remove it. To wit: the IMF piles on:

  • *IMF SAYS `MORE REMAINS TO BE DONE' ON U.S. PUBLIC FINANCES
  • *IMF SAYS U.S. DEBT CEILING SHOULD BE RAISED `EXPEDITIOUSLY'

Full statements below.

Guest Post: Game Theory And The Unfixable Fiscal Situation

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?

Santelli: "There Has To Be An Endgame To Insanity"

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."

Grant's Interest Rate Observer: Free Best Articles Compilation

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.

Fiscal Cliff To Be Fiscal Drag Amounting To 1% Of 2013 GDP

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.

Next Comes The US Downgrade

"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."

The Cliff Is Dead, Long Live The Cliff: Futures Soar

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.

Marc To Market's picture

The Fiscal Stiff

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.

What To Look Out For Today - The Three Congressional Scenarios

Scenarios:

  1. 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
  2. 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.
  3. 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 More

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.