Debt Ceiling

Geithner Unleashed: Sends Letter To Boehner, Warns Even Brief Default Would Be "Terribly Damaging", Channels Reagan

Following up on today's relentless debt ceiling propaganda, which started with the Politico report that more than half of republicans are willing to push the US into a "temporary" default, going through Obama's "We are not a deadbeat nation", but one whose president apparently will not debate the debt ceiling (the same president who as a Senator was against rising the debt ceiling) and closing with Boehner's rebuttal to Obama, saying the GOP would raise the debt ceiling but in exchange for spending cuts, sure enough it was time to unleash the Treasury Secretary in his last days on the job, toting the party line ("extending borrowing authority does not increase government spending; it simply allows the Treasury to pay for expenditures Congress has previously approved") making it "abundantly clear" that "Even a temporary default with a brief interruption in payments that Congress subsequently restores would be terribly damaging, calling into question the willingness of Congress to uphold America’s longstanding commitment to meet the obligations of the nation in full and on time.  It should also be noted that default would increase our borrowing costs and damage economic growth and therefore add to future budget deficits, not decrease them." The unleashed Geithner then proceeds to threaten: "Threatening to undermine our creditworthiness is no less irresponsible than threatening to undermine the rule of law, and no more legitimate than any other common demand for ransom." Finally, Geithner also made it clear that the CNBC "RISE ABOVE THE DEBT CEILING" campaign is now at T-30 to T-45: "Treasury currently expects to exhaust these extraordinary measures between mid-February and early March of this year" which however should not be news to anyone.

"We Are Not A Deadbeat Nation" - Full Obama Transcript

The punchlines: "...the issue here is whether or not America pays its bills. We are not a deadbeat nation... And if the Republicans in Congress have made a decision that they want to shut down the government in order to get their way, then they have the votes, at least in the House of Representatives, probably to do that.... So we've got to pay our bills. And Republicans in Congress have two choices here. They can act responsibly, and pay America's bills, or they can act irresponsibly and put America through another economic crisis. But they will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy ... We've got to stop lurching from crisis to crisis to crisis when there's this clear path ahead of us that simply requires some discipline, some responsibility, and some compromise. That's where we need to go. That's how this needs to work."....  Yet should the "worst" (i.e. living within its means) happen to the US, then "Social Security checks, and veterans benefits will be delayed. We might not be able to pay our troops, or honor our contracts with small business owners. Food inspectors, air traffic controllers, specialist who track down loose nuclear materials wouldn't get their paychecks. Investors around the world will ask if the United States of America is in fact a safe bet. Markets could go haywire, interest rates would spike for anybody who borrows money. Every homeowner with a mortgage, every student with a college loan, every small business owner who wants to grow and hire.... As the speaker said two years ago, it would be, and I'm quoting Speaker Boehner now, "a financial disaster, not only for us, but for the worldwide economy.""

Still think "we are not a deadbeat nation"?

Boehner Responds: "The American People Do Not Support Raising Debt Ceiling Without Reducing Spending"

The American people do not support raising the debt ceiling without reducing government spending at the same time. The consequences of failing to increase the debt ceiling are real, but so too are the consequences of allowing our spending problem to go unresolved. Without meaningful action, the debt will continue to act as an anchor on our economy, costing American jobs and endangering our children's future. The House will do its job and pass responsible legislation that controls spending, meets our nation's obligations and keeps the government running, and we will insist that the Democratic majority in Washington do the same.”

Obama Addresses Debt Ceiling And Potential US Default - Live Webcast

Curious why the teleprompter will grace the president, and the US public, with its presence in a few short minutes? Politico explains: "President Obama will hold a news conference at 11:30 a.m. Monday in the East Room, the White House announced. It will be the final one of his first term. Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said he will discuss the need for Congress to raise the debt ceiling?" Shot every time Obama says "not negotiate", "cut spending", "raise taxes", and "fair." Drink everything, including from the deodorant bottle, if he or a member of the press mentions "trillion dollar coin" or, even better, "build the death star."

Does Bank Of England Hold €235 Million Of Irish Gold Reserves?

The Central Bank of Ireland continues to be queried about the status of the Irish gold reserves. It has been reluctant to release information and said that it is “not obliged” to release information due to certain “rules and regulations”.  Ireland's finance minister, Michael Noonan, has also been asked about the country's gold vaulted at the Bank of England, such as whether the gold is held in allocated form with a bar list available and whether the gold is leased out into international markets. Answers are as of yet not forthcoming. The Sunday Independent, Ireland’s best selling Sunday broadsheet covered the story yesterday in an article (see news) published yesterday which is being widely shared on the internet and commented upon: Bankrupt Ireland owns six tonnes of gold, the bulk of which is held at the Bank of England, it has been revealed. The Central Bank of Ireland said the value of its gold holdings was €235m last time it checked. This represents just over 1 per cent of its total investments. A spokeswoman said the Central Bank was a party to the Washington Agreement on Gold, which recognised gold as an important element of global monetary reserves. She said the Central Bank had not entered into any lease arrangements regarding any of its gold but would not provide specific details of its storage arrangements with the Bank of England.

More Than Half Of Republicans Prepared To Let US Default

Yesterday, Citigroup floated the idea that a temporary government shutdown once the full array of debt ceiling extension measures expires some time in mid/late February, is possible, which would also mean the first technical default of the US depending on the prioritization of US debt payments. Now, Politico reports that this idea is rapidly gaining support within the GOP and that "more than half of GOP members are prepare to allow default unless Obama agress to dramatic cuts he has repeatedly said he opposes." It gets better... or worse depending how many ES contracts on is long: "Many more members, including some party leaders, are prepared to shut down the government to make their point. House Speaker John Boehner “may need a shutdown just to get it out of their system,” said a top GOP leadership adviser. “We might need to do that for member-management purposes — so they have an endgame and can show their constituents they’re fighting.”" Of course, at this point not even a US government bankruptcy may send the ES more than one or two ticks lower. After all, there is no risk of anything happening anywhere, any time.

Frontrunning: January 14

  • Guess who doesn't believe in the "great rotation out of bonds and into stocks": Abe Aids Bernanke as Japan Seen Buying Foreign Debt (BBG)
  • AIG Sues Federal Reserve Vehicle in Dispute Over Lawsuit Rights (WSJ)
  • JPMorgan Said to Weigh Disclosing Whale Report Faulting Dimon (BBG)
  • Ugly Choices Loom Over Debt Clash (WSJ)
  • Credit Suisse to cut bonus pool by 20 percent (Reuters)
  • Brazilian Bikini Waxes Make Crab Lice Endangered Species (BBG)
  • EU redrafts plan for bank rescue funding (FT)
  • JCPenney stock plunges after bad holiday (NY Post)
  • Regulator Comments Buoy Shanghai Stocks (WSJ)
  • Japan voters back PM Abe's efforts to spur growth, beat deflation (Reuters)
  • Cameron averts row over Europe speech (FT)
  • Swatch Buys Harry Winston Jewelry Brand for $1 Billion (BBG)

Market Bubbly Following Newsless Weekend

We are back to that phase in market euphoria where no news is good news, good news is better, and bad news is best. While there was little news over the weekend, and overnight, what news there was uniformly negative: northern China drowning in smog, the Apple fad bubble bursting, European Industrial production printing below expectations (-0.3%, exp.-0.2%, down from revised -1.0%), and ever louder rumors that the debt ceiling debate may metastasize into an actual government shutdown for at least a few days, which means the first technical default in US history. Yet nothing seems able to faze the risk on mood, still driven by a relentless surge in the EURUSD which touched on 1.34 overnight before retracing, and the EURCHF, which too has soared by over a 100 pips in recent trading action, which according to some is a result of Swatch buying the Harry Winston watch and jewelry brand for $1 billion, and an aggressively selling of CHF into USD by the company. Eventwise, today will be a quiet day in the US, although the action will pick up tomorrow as more companies report earnings as well as the all important retail sales report will put to rest all debate over just how good or bad this holiday shopping season (pre and post seasonal adjustments) truly was.

Marc To Market's picture

The underlying trends seen this year have continued, but after strong follow through in Asia, a more subdued tone has been seen in Europe. The US dollar is generally softer, except against the yen and sterling. Japanese markets were closed for holiday, but the MSCI Asia-Pacific Index rose almost 0.3%, lifted by more than a 3% rally in China on speculation that there may be a sharp increase in the cap on foreign investors' ability to invest in Chinese equities. In Europe, the Dow Jones Stoxx 600 is hp about 0.4%, led by a rise in financials. Spanish stock market is at its highest level in almost a year (Feb 2012) and Italy's market is at its best August 2011, though their bond markets are seeing some profit-taking today. With a light economic calendar in North America today, Bernanke's speech in Michigan after the markets close may be the highlight. We identify six key factors shaping the investment climate.

Citi: "It Is Possible That We Will Get A Technical Default For A Few Days"

It is possible that we will get a technical default for a few days, but more likely that Congress will give in, vote the debt ceiling up temporarily, and let the automatic sequesters kick in. Mounting risk of a technical default was USD positive in 2011 because it led to cutting of long-risk positions and the USD/Treasury market remained safe havens.  However, it also occurred in an environment of slowing EM growth and intensifying euro zone sovereign risk pressure, so the USD support came from external forces as well. Given that investors are now somewhat long risk again, the position cutting is again likely to be USD positive, however, unattractive US assets were. As was the case in 2011, it is very unlikely that the Treasury will not pay its bills, although even a technical default could have very unforeseen consequences, given the multiple functions that Treasuries play in global financial markets.

Even Goldman Says China Is Cooking The Books

That China openly manipulates its economic data, especially around key political phase shifts, such as one communist regime taking over for another, is no secret. That China is also the marginal economic power (creating trillions in new loans and deposits each year) in a stagflating world, and as such must be represented by the media as growing at key inflection points (such as Q4 when Europe officially entered a double dip recession, and the US will report its first sub 1% GDP in years) as mysteriously reporting growth even without open monetary stimulus (something we have said the PBOC will not engage in due to fears of importing US, European and now Japanese inflation) is critical for preserving hope and faith in the future of the stock market, is also very well known. Which is why recent market optimism driven by "hope" from Alcoa that China is recovering and will avoid yet another hard landing, and Chinese reports of a surge in Exports last week, are very much suspect. But no longer is it just the blogosphere that is openly taking Chinese data to task - as Bloomberg reports, even the major banks: Goldman, UBS and ANZ - are now openly questioning the validity and credibility of the goalseek function resulting from C:\China\central_planning\economic_model.xls.

Macro Polo

The absence of meaningful negative market responses to debt ceiling dramas, Japanese inflation targeting, trillion dollar coins, and other odd and dubious politically-oriented market meddling seems to be sending reflexive signals back to capitals: all clear, continue self-destructing. The markets seem not to care, knowing that central banks have their back. Money creation can suspend nominal economic contraction and ensure rising financial markets until something, (anything!), might stir the public’s imagination again and animal spirits. But while money can suspend animation, it is not and cannot replace real economic functioning. In fact, ongoing money creation is locking-in negative real economic growth and real returns in most financial assets. We think the best strategy for discretionary investors is to stay focused on the growing monetary mountain across the valley, and to not look down. This piece seeks to place the current investment environment in economic, political and social perspective.

36 South: "Let's Legalize Cocaine"

Think about it – a substance which makes one feel good, promotes a feeling of well-being and confidence…..what is the problem with that? The problem, as I explained to all my teenagers, is not that drugs are inherently bad per se, it is the medium to long term consequences of drug use that inevitably leave one worse off and forces one to make decisions one would not normally make e.g. selling your mother’s wedding ring for drug money. Like the good pseudo-parents they are, the governments have (probably correctly) stepped in and outlawed drugs and their use. But there are other substances which also make one feel good, promote a feeling of well-being and confidence but is just as dangerous. With this substance the government does NOT limit use but promotes it! It is in fact the grower and distributor! What is this stuff? Hint …. Comes in two flavours: money (present money) and credit (future money).

Treasury, Fed Kill Trollin' Dollar Coin

And just like that the most surreal two weeks of sheer monetary idiocy is over, with the Treasury and the Fed both formally announcing the death of the trillion trollin' dollar platinum  coin idea, which was nothing but a cheap charlatan trick devised by page view-desperate media outlets to dumb down their already confused audience and distract from the fact that the US is, sadly, once again on the verge of bankruptcy.