The rest of the world has had enough of the monopoly of the credit-rating agencies that are largely biased towards the US economy and it’s about time that it all came to an end.
A mere 24 hours before the US was going to run out of money and default on its obligations (in what Jack Lew described as a "catastrophe"), Grant Williams notes the S&P 500 was trading exactly 2.30% from its all-time high. Does that sound like anybody was worried about financial Armageddon? Nope, but as Williams detail sin his latest letter, the danger was very real, as a default by the US on its debt obligations would have gone to the very heart of the "plumbing" that underlies financial markets and caused havoc in the repo market and all kinds of problems with collateral... The key clue passed most people by a week ago; but it came from, of all places, Hong Kong...
It would appear that French-owned Fitch, following its rating-watch-negative shift on the US credit rating last week, has got a tap on the shoulder from the powers that be. As Hollande complains about Obama's espionage, Fitch has released a statement explaining how the USA can do whatever it wants and not be downgraded. With only the Chinese ratings agency "able" to openly comment on the creditworthiness of the USA, it is no surprise that Fitch gave itself an "out" on the basis of the USDollar's exorbitant previlege.
- Republican Civil War Erupts: Business Groups v. Tea Party (BBG)
- Budget fight leaves Boehner 'damaged' but still standing (Reuters)
- Madoff Was Like a God, Wizard of Oz, Lawyers Tell Jury (BBG) - just like Bernanke
- Republicans press U.S. officials over Obamacare snags (Reuters)
- Brilliant: Fed Unlikely to Trim Bond Buying in October (Hilsenrath)
- More brilliant: Fed could taper as early as December (FT)
- Russia Roofing Billionaires Seen Among Country’s Youngest (BBG)
- Ford's Mulally won't dismiss Boeing, Microsoft speculation (Reuters)
- China reverses first-half slowdown (FT)
- NY Fed’s Fired Goldman Examiner Makes Weird Case (BBG)
If there is anything the market has shown in the past 16 days of government shutdown, which is set to reopen this morning in grandiose fashion following last night's 10 pm'th hour vote in the House, is that it no longer needs Washington not only to function but to ramp higher. All it needs is the Fed, which in turn needs an unlimited debt issuance capacity by the US Treasury which it can monetize indefinitely, which is why the debt ceiling was always the far more pressing issue. In other words, the good news is that the can has been kicked, and now the government workers (who will need about a week to get up to speed), can resume releasing various government data showing just how much 5 years of now-open ended QE have impaired the US economy, and why as a result, even more years of unlimited QE are in stock (because in a Keynesian world, what caused the problem is obviously what will fix it). The bad news: the whole charade will be repeated in three months. More importantly, with futures no longer having the hopium bogey on the horizon, namely the always last minute debt deal, they have finally sold off on the back of a weaker USD. It is unclear if the reason for this has more to do with climbing the wall of shorters which is now gone at least until February when the soap opera returns, or what for now, has been an absolutely abysmal Q3 earnings season. Luckily, in a centrally-planned world, plunging stocks is bullish for stocks, as it means even more Fed intervention, and so on ad inf.
Since all US rating agencies (Fitch is majority French-owned) have been terrified into submission and will never again touch the rating of the US following the DOJ's witch hunt of S&P, any US rating changes on the margin will come from abroad. Like China's Dagong rating agency, which several hours ago just downgraded the US from A to A-, maintaining its negative outlook. The agency said that while a default has been averted by a last minute agreement in Congress, the fundamental situation of debt growth outpacing fiscal income and GDP remains unchanged. "Hence the government is still approaching the verge of default crisis, a situation that cannot be substantially alleviated in the foreseeable future."
How Fitch has not downgraded the U.S. already is a mystery to analysts looking at the U.S. fiscal position and the lack of political will to tackle it. It seems likely that significant political pressure is being put on credit ratings agencies regarding their credit rating of the U.S.
It's gotten beyond silly: with less than a day to go until the first X-Date, beyond which if Jack Lew is correct (he isn't) all hell will break loose if the US doesn't have a debt deal in place, stocks couldn't care less, Bills continue to sell off, carry traders only care how big the central banks' balance sheets are, all news are generally shunned and yet stocks have soared 600 DJIA points on Harry Reid's relentless optimism a deal will get done, even though so far none has. Today, as we observed on Monday, we expect more of the same: stocks and futures will ignore the reality that the midnight hour will come and go with no deal in place, but will continue to explode higher as Harry Reid's latest set of "optimism" headlines hits the tape in low volume trading. We expect the first big hope rally around POMO time, then shortly after Senate comes back in Session, around noon. Then for good measure, another one just before market close. Why not: it's not like the "market" even pretend to be one anymore. Keep an eye on today's 4-Week bill auction before noon. It should be a far bigger doozy than yesterday's longer-dated bills.
So what exactly did Reid know and when?
- *UNITED STATES' AAA IDR RATING MAY BE CUT BY FITCH :3352Z US
- FITCH SAYS PUTS U.S. ON RATING WATCH NEGATIVE AS U.S. AUTHORITIES HAVE NOT RAISED FEDERAL DEBT CEILING IN A "TIMELY MANNER
- *FITCH STILL SEES U.S. DEBT CEILING TO BE RAISED SOON :3352Z US
- *FITCH SEES RESOLVING US RWN BY END OF 1Q '14 AT LATEST
- *FITCH STILL SEES U.S. DEBT CEILING TO BE RAISED SOON :3352Z US
- *FITCH SEES U.S. ECONOMIC GROWTH REVERTING TO 2.25% AFTER 2017
Despite stock (not bond) euphoria yesterday that a DC debt ceiling deal was sealed leading to the second largest risk ramp of 2013, last night was spent diffusing the excitement as one after another politician talked back the success of a "non-deal" that Obama rejected, at least according to the NYT. As a result, with both retail sales data and the PPI not being released (and the only data of note the always leaked UMichigan consumer confidence) markets will again be at the behest of developments on Capitol Hill, with some talk from Republicans suggesting a deal as early as today could be possible in an effort to reopen government on Monday. It is entirely possible that talks could continue over the weekend though, which would ensure a gappy open to Asian markets on Monday.
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.
Quick: which BRIC nation has the highest consumer loan default rate?
If you said China, India or Russia, you are wrong. Actually, if you said China you are probably right, but since absolutely all economic "data" in China is worthless, manipulated propaganda, only a retrospective post-mortem after the Chinese credit, housing, commodity, consumption bubbles have all burst will we know the answer. So excluding China, which country's consumers after a multi-year shopping spree funded entirely on credit, are suddenly suffering the epic hangover of soaring non-performing loans as they suddenly find themselves unable to even pay the interest on the debt? Just ask former billionaire Eike Batista whose OGX oil corporation is days away from filing bankruptcy. The answer, with 5.6% of all loans in default, above Russia, South Africa, Mexico, Turkey and India, is Brazil.
Yesterday we described the various scenarios available to Treasury in the next few weeks should the shutdown and debt ceiling debacle carry on longer than the equity markets believe possible. As BofAML notes, however, the most plausible option for the Treasury could be implementing a delayed payment regime. In such a scenario, the Treasury would wait until it has enough cash to pay off an entire day’s obligations and then make those payments on a day-to-day basis. Given the lack of a precedent, it is hard to quantify the impact on the financial markets in the event that the Treasury was to miss payment on a UST; but the following looks at the impact on a market by market basis.
With the government shutdown stretching into an improbable 4th day (and with every additional day added on, the likelihood that the impasse continues even longer and hit the debt ceiling X-Date of October 17 becomes greater), today's monthly Non-Farm Payroll data has quickly become No-Farm Payroll. However, just like on day when Europe is closed we still get a ramp into the European close, expect at least several vacuum tube algos to jump the gun at 8:29:59:999 and try to generate some upward momentum ignition in stocks and downward momentum in gold. In addition to no economic data released in the US, President Obama announced last night he has cancelled his trip to Bali, Indonesia, to attend the APEC conference and instead to focus on budget negotiations back at home - which is ironic because his latest story is that he will not negotiate, so why not just not negotiate from Asia? Ah, the optics of shutdown.
With short-term Treasury Bills starting to price in a missed payment possibility and USA CDS surging (though still low), the debt ceiling (and implicit chance of a technical default) is nigh. As we approach yet another debt ceiling showdown (especially in light of the seeming congruence of a CR and debt ceiling debate in an entirely divided Washington), market attention will turn towards a possible US sovereign rating downgrade. In this article, we provide an outline of the likely actions by the three rating agencies (S&P, Moody’s and Fitch).