Debt Ceiling

Here Comes The Sequester, And Another 1% Cut To 2013 GDP

From Goldman Sachs: "Allowing the sequester to hit would, in our view, have greater implications for growth than a short-lived government shutdown, but would not be as severe as a failure to raise the debt limit. Although Republicans in Congress generally support replacing the defense portion of the sequester with cuts in other areas, there is much less Republican support for delaying them without offsetting the increased spending that would result." And in bottom line terms: "Sequestration would reduce the level of spending authority by $85bn in fiscal year (FY) 2013 and $109bn for subsequent fiscal years through 2021. The actual effect on spending in calendar 2013 would be smaller--around $53bn, or 0.3% of GDP--since reductions in spending authority reduce actual spending with a lag. The reduction in spending would occur fairly quickly; the change would  be concentrated in Q2 and particularly Q3 and could weigh on growth by 0.5pp to 1.0pp." In other words: payroll tax eliminates some 1.5% of 2013 GDP growth; on the other side the sequester cuts another 1%: that's a total of 2.5%. So: is the US now almost certainly looking at a recession when all the fiscal components to "growth" are eliminated? And what will the Fed do when it is already easing on "full blast" just to keep US growth barely above 0%?

Citi On The Debt Ceiling: "First Complacency, Then Horror"

While we will shortly present some practical perspectives on what the debt ceiling fiasco due in just about a month, means practically for the economy (think sequester, and another 1% cut to US GDP, which when added to the payroll tax cut expiration's negative 1.5%-2% impact on 2013 GDP, and one wonders just how the US will avoid recession in 2013), here is a must read perspective from Citigroup on how the markets may and likely will react to what is shaping up to be another "12:30th hour" (the New Normal version of the eleventh hour) debt ceiling resolution, which is now under a month away. To wit: "We think this means that 1) risk will sell off less approaching the debt ceiling deadline; 2) currency investors will hold on to risk in spot but buy tail risk hedges; and 3) there will be a wholesale cutting of positions in FX and other asset classes, if the debt ceiling is breached. So it may looks as if the debt ceiling breach is not worrying asset markets, but it means that investors are banking on the chestnuts being pulled out of the fire. If they are not pulled out, positions go up in smoke."

An Analytic Framework For 2013

In one sentence, during 2013, we expect imbalances to grow. These imbalances are the US fiscal and trade deficits, the fiscal deficits of the members of the European Monetary Union (EMU) and the unemployment rate of the EMU thanks to a stronger Euro. By now, it should be clear that the rally in equities is not the reflection of upcoming economic growth. Paraphrasing Shakespeare, economic growth "should be made of sterner stuff". Many analysts rightly focus on the political fragility of the framework. The uncertainty over the US debt ceiling negotiations and the fact that prices today do not reflect anything else but the probability of a bid or lack thereof by a central bank makes politics relevant. Should the European Central Bank finally engage in Open Monetary Transactions, the importance of politics would be fully visible. However, unemployment is 'the' fundamental underlying factor in this story and we do not think it will fall. In the long term, financial repression, including zero-interest rate policies, simply hurts investment demand and productivity.

One Year Of Tax Hikes On The Rich Is Promptly Spent As $60 Billion Sandy Relief Aid Bill Passes

After more than two months of political grandstanding, finally the $60 billion pork-laden Sandy relief aid bill has passed through the House in a 241-180 vote (with 1 democrat and 179 republicans voting no), with the vote passing courtesy of just 49 republicans who voted with the democrats. The reminder objected in protest "against a bill that many conservatives say is too big and provides funding for things other than immediate relief for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut" Politico reports. Specifically, the House approved a $50 billion relief bill, after several hours of contentious debate in which scores of Republicans tried unsuccessfully to cut the size of the bill and offset a portion of it with spending cuts. $9.7 billion had been already voted on January 4th for a flood insurance lending facility.The biggest winner today? Chris Christie whose anti-Boehner soapbox rant drama two weeks ago may have been just the breaking straw that forced the passage of this porkulus bill.

Guest Post: Why Expansionist Central States Inevitably Implode

The S-Curve usefully charts the gradual development, explosive rise and eventual stagnation and collapse of complex systems. Remarkably, natural phenomena such as the spread of bacteriological diseases and financial dynamics both follow S-Curves. The S-Curve also helps us understand why the Expansionist Central State is doomed to inevitable implosion/collapse. The key dynamic in State spending is this: the allocation of public capital is intrinsically a political process, not a market or communal process. We are at the inflection point indicated on the chart below where the lines cross, just before the crisis: tax revenues are lagging spending in an enormous structural deficit. Tweaking tax policy or raising the debt ceiling will not change any of these dynamics. The Expansionist State is on the path to implosion (insolvency) and collapse, i.e. a political crisis. If we understand the core dynamics of the Expansionist Central State - the political allocation of scarce national income to favored constituencies and cartels - we understand why this process is inevitable.

Fitch Issues Another Rating Warning For AmericAAA

With precisely one month left until the early bound of the debt ceiling crunch and a possible US government shut down and/or technical default, and with M.A.D. warnings from the president and treasury secretary doing nothing to precipitate a sense of urgency (which will not arrive until there is a 20% market drop, so far consistently delayed but which will eventually happen), here comes the most toothless of rating agencies, French Fitch which somehow kept its mouth shut over the past 18 months, when US debt rose by over $2.1 trillion and debt to GDP hit 103%, shaking a little stick furiously, no doubt under guidance by its corporate HoldCo owners: French Fimilac SA.

Overnight Sentiment: First Leg Of German Recession Now Official, As Yen Collapse Ends

And so the consequences for Europe of accommodating the US, and the rest of the world, in having the EUR soar following ECB intervention while everyone else's currency is diluted to death, comes to the fore, following today's announcement of German 2012 GDP which came below expectations of 0.8%, printing at 0.7%, with government adding a substantial 1.0% to this number, while plant and machinery investment tumbled by a whopping -4.4%. And while the specific Q4 data was not actually broken out, a subsequent report by the German stat office indicated that Q4 GDP likely shrank by 0.5% in Q4. All that is needed is one more quarter of sub zero GDP, which will almost certainly happen in Q1 absent a massive surge in government spending which however will not happen in tapped out Germany, whose resources are focused on keeping the periphery afloat, and thus the EURUSD high, and Germany's exports weak. Confirming this was a Bild report which stated that the government now sees 2013 GDP growth of a paltry 0.4%, which assumes growth in H2. One wonders just how much longer Germany will opt for a currency regime that punishes its primary GDP-driver: net exports, at the expense of nothing beneficial but making tourist trips to Greece far more expensive than under the Drachma.

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)