The US Debt Ceiling: The Only Way Is Up

With Democratic lawmakers currently working to pass a multi-trillion dollar infrastructure bill, Republican senators have rediscovered their fiscal conservatism, which appeared to temporarily desert them during the Trump era. Given their minority status in both Congressional chambers, McConnell and co are relying on a tool that served them well under the Obama administration – the debt ceiling.

Republicans are demanding that Democrats reduce the scale of their planned infrastructure bill, whose price tag could be as high as $3.5 trillion. Without cooperation on that issue, Republican senators say they will refuse to cooperate on the issue of the debt ceiling. With Senate Majority Leader Schumer already ruling out the use of the reconciliation workaround, which allows for a simple majority for a bill to pass, the only path to resolution on this issue is through a normal Senate vote. This is critical, given the 60-vote requirement for regular bills to pass in the Senate – any debt ceiling resolution will require at least 10 red-state senators to break ranks and vote aye. The achievement of 60 votes is made yet more difficult by the potential for moderate Democrats to join their Republican colleagues in blocking action on the debt ceiling, with Joe Manchin having previously expressed his discomfort with the national debt.

Secretary Yellen now says that the US is likely to hit its debt ceiling on the 18th of October, meaning the federal government will be unable to fulfil its financial obligations after this date unless the ceiling is raised or suspended. This latter point is crucial and has been somewhat muddied by Republican spin on this issue. In reality, the debt ceiling is not about new government spending at all, it is about the government’s ability to fulfil spending promises that it has already made. Such obligations include both welfare payments and the maintenance of the national debt, meaning the potential economic consequences of this saga go far beyond the passage or non-passage of Biden’s infrastructure plan.

This is not the first time that Republican lawmakers have employed such a strategy, using it in both 2011 and 2013 to extract concessions from President Obama. In both of these cases, the concessions achieved were relatively minor, and the Republicans were eventually forced to settle for a moral victory at best. On top of that, the Democrats were able to avoid the bulk of the political backlash, with only 31% of the country saying that they were to blame for the crisis in 2011. So why use such a tactic again, given that it appears on the surface to have been so unsuccessful in times past?

  • Firstly, the political landscape has shifted drastically since episodes one and two of this trilogy. President Biden is a far less formidable political adversary than his former boss, particularly with regards to charisma and control over the media narrative. McConnell will be betting that his party can do a better job of deflecting blame towards the Democrats now they don’t have to compete with Obama’s overwhelming political celebrity. This strategy already appears to be paying off, with just 16% of poll respondents blaming the Republicans for the potential default.
  • Secondly, let us not forget who the intended audience of this political stunt really is – the Republican base. Having the support of even just 31% of the country is more than enough to achieve success in US elections given their historically low turnout, especially in the midterms which are now on the horizon. Turnout will be key in 2022 and this savvy political ploy will increase Republican chances of breaking the Democratic stranglehold on Washington next year by enticing conservative voters to the polls.

With all of this being said, the actual probability of US debt default is virtually zero. This Republican routine would be much more convincing if we hadn’t seen it twice before already. Does anyone really believe that it is a coincidence that all three debt crises have come in the year prior to a midterm election? Or that lawmakers (and their donors) with combined stock portfolios in the billions would seriously allow the devastating economic damage such a default would guarantee? The final nail in the coffin for the convincingness of such a threat is the Republican voters themselves. One of the best-kept secrets in Washington is that red states receive far more in net federal spending per capita than blue states. Whilst conservative voters may love the idea of national fiscal responsibility in theory, they are far more attached to personal financial solvency in practice. If the Republicans actually allowed this debacle to get to a point where the government stopped sending welfare checks, it would be their voters who would suffer the most, and the potential political benefits of this gambit would be nowhere to be seen.

This is not to say that no economic damage will be done or that no panic will occur. In 2011 a resolution was agreed just two days before the debt ceiling was due to be reached and resulted in a US credit rating downgrade and the loss of 1.2 million jobs by 2015. Rather, the very worst fears of the financial markets will not be realised – the debt ceiling will be raised and the infrastructure bill will pass in one form or another. But it’s going to get very messy and very noisy before we get there.

Outcomes:

  1. The panic and political manoeuvring will continue, and may even stretch beyond the October 18th date stated by Yellen, if the Treasury gets creative with their accounting. This uncertainty will hit markets and the real economy but this is a sacrifice Republicans are willing to make. McConnell looks set to trade a few points in the S&P 500 for a few points at the polls in the midterms – a bit of a bargain in political terms.
  2. Moderate Democrats will use this pressure as leverage against the left in their own party who are pushing for the headline $3.5 trillion bill to be realised. This will lead to further infighting among the Democrats which the left will likely lose, meaning a smaller infrastructure package than initially intended.
  3. The chances of the Democrats maintaining or expanding their control in Washington just went down.

Week Ahead: OPEC meets & FOMC releases minutes

Week Ahead

In our first week ahead of the year, we’re checking out some particularly meaty topics. OPEC+ begins the first of this year’s new monthly ministerial meetings on Jan 4th as producers discuss gradually unwinding production cuts.  

The FOMC releases its latest meeting minutes – will they be a roadmap for US economic recovery? Plus, US nonfarm payrolls are released, which could show signs of strength in the United States’ job market. 

OPEC meeting 

The first of a new series of monthly meetings of OPEC and non-OPEC ministers kicks of this week, following on from December’s decision to delay the process of tapering production cuts agreed last year to prop up prices. 

This is the month where OPEC members plus allies will ease the stoppers slightly and increase production. OPEC+ has given the greenlight to pump an extra 500,000bpd from January until at least March. The total production cut for January will be 7.2m bpd compared to the 7.7m bpd cut in the latter part of 2020. 

However, demand expectations have failed to improve despite vaccines so pressure will remain on OPEC to monitor the situation closely. OPEC now expects global oil demand to have fallen to 9.77 million barrels per day in 2020 to reach 89.99m bpd, compared to over 90m bpd in its November estimations.  

2021 oil demand is now forecast at 95.89m bpd. That’s down 410,000 from the original OPEC projections published in the November MOMR. In October, OPEC had estimated 2021 oil demand to be 96.8m bpd. 

One key aspect of balancing price vs demand vs production will be member and ally compliance. There has already been a bit of dissention within the ranks, with likes of Saudi Arabia considering giving up its chairman position, for instance. Some producers within OPEC’s sphere of influence are steadfastly sticking to their own production targets, regardless of limits and stops. 

Libya has voiced its plans to increase its oil production and has previously stated that it will not accept any production quota until such a point where it can reliably produce 1.7 million bpd—compared to its current 1.108 million bpd. 

Iran, too, has promised to increase its oil production to 2.3 million bpd in 2021, up from 1.986 million bpd now. 

FOMC Meeting Minutes 

Minutes from the latest Fed meeting are on tap – giving a clearer indication of possible dissension over the extent to which the FOMC feels it needs to anchor long-term rates and whether further policy support is required. The question for the Fed is starting to pivot towards the reflation trade and rising long-term rates. 

Rising inflation expectations may be a problem for the Fed as it could force it into tightening sooner than previously expected. Whilst average inflation targeting gives it some leeway, we’ll be paying close to attention to whether individual policymakers are starting to fret over inflation and the need for more restraint in monetary policy.  

Nonfarm Payrolls 

The December jobs report caps off the week on Friday with surging Covid cases in the US likely to weigh on demand, albeit seasonal hiring will be a factor to considerIn November, a further 245,000 jobs were added to the US economy, whilst the unemployment rate edged down to 6.7%. This was well below the run rate of the last 6 months and indicated a slowing in hiring as case counts rose across the country. 

However, markets seem to be largely happy to overlook a softer pace of recovery in the jobs market though thanks to vaccines – December‘s report is backwards-looking and will reflect surging case numbers and new lockdown restrictions across multiple states. Moreover, soft jobs numbers only underline the need for sustained monetary and fiscal stimulus – we’re in a bad news is good news phase. 

Georgia Runoffs 

Voters will go to the polls for the Georgia Runoffs on January 5th in an election that will decide control of the Senate for the first two years of Joe Biden’s presidency. 

This will be exceptionally important, as a Blue Senate should mean easier passage of Biden’s agenda, which is pointed towards green energy and investment. However, the chances of a slim Republican majority seem pretty gooddespite November’s slim Democrat victory in the presidential elections, which would mean less regulatory and tax overhang. 

Outlook 2021 webinar 

Tuesday 5th January, 12.00 GMT 

Want to know what the key market topics will be in the new year? We’re asking the big questions with this webinar: Will inflation be the dog that finally barks? Will the UK stock market finally catch up? Will vaccines spur a reflationary return to normal environment? Join chief market analyst Neil Wilson to get the answers to the big questions in our 2021 Outlook. 

Sign up 

Major economic data 

Date  Time (GMT)  Currency  Event 
Mon Jan 4th  9.00am  EUR  Final Manufacturing PMI 
       
  9.30am  GBP  Final Manufacturing PMI 
       
  All Day  All  OPEC-JMMC Meeting 
       
  2.30pm  CAD  Manufacturing PMI 
       
  3.00pm  USD  ISM Manufacturing PMI 
       
Tue Jan 5th  9.30am  GBP  Construction PMI 
       
Wed Jan 6th  9.00am  EUR  Final Services PMI 
       
  9.30am  GBP  Final Services PMI 
       
  1.15pm  USD  ADP Nonfarm Employment Change 
       
  3.00pm  USD  ISM Services PMI 
       
  3.30pm  USD  US Crude Oil Inventories 
       
  7.00pm  USD  FOMC Meeting Minutes 
       
Thu Jan 7th  10.00am  EUR  CPI Flash Estimate 
       
  10.00am  EUR  Core CPI Flash Estimate 
       
  1.30pm  USD  Unemployment Changes 
       
  3.30pm  USD  US Natural Gas Inventories 
       
Fri Jan 8th  1.30am  CNH  CPI y/y 
       
  1.30am  CNH  PPI y/y 
       
  1.30pm  CAD  Employment Change 
       
  1.30pm  CAD  Unemployment Rate 
       
  1.30pm  USD  Average Hourly Earnings m/m 
       
  1.30pm  USD  Nonfarm Employment Change 
       
  1.30pm  USD  Unemployment Rate 
       
  3.00pm  CAD  Ivey PMI 

 

Key earnings data 

Date  Company  Event 
Mon Jan 4th  State Street Corp.  Q4 2021 Earnings 
     
Wed Jan 6th  RPM International  Q2 2021 Earnings 
     
Thu Jan 7th  Micron Technology  Q1 2021 Earnings 
     
  Constellation Brands  Q3 2021 Earnings 
     
  Walgreens Boots Alliance  Q1 2021 Earnings 
     
  ConAgra Foods  Q2 2021 Earnings 
     
  Lamb Weston Holdings  Q2 2021 Earnings 
     
Fri Jan 8th  Tata Consultancy Services  Q3 2021 Earnings 

Week Ahead: OPEC meets & FOMC releases minutes

Week Ahead

In our first week ahead of the year, we’re checking out some particularly meaty topics. OPEC+ begins the first of this year’s new monthly ministerial meetings on Jan 4th as producers discuss gradually unwinding production cuts.  

The FOMC releases its latest meeting minutes – will they be a roadmap for US economic recovery? Plus, US nonfarm payrolls are released, which could show signs of strength in the United States’ job market. 

OPEC meeting 

The first of a new series of monthly meetings of OPEC and non-OPEC ministers kicks of this week, following on from December’s decision to delay the process of tapering production cuts agreed last year to prop up prices. 

This is the month where OPEC members plus allies will ease the stoppers slightly and increase production. OPEC+ has given the greenlight to pump an extra 500,000bpd from January until at least March. The total production cut for January will be 7.2m bpd compared to the 7.7m bpd cut in the latter part of 2020. 

However, demand expectations have failed to improve despite vaccines so pressure will remain on OPEC to monitor the situation closely. OPEC now expects global oil demand to have fallen to 9.77 million barrels per day in 2020 to reach 89.99m bpd, compared to over 90m bpd in its November estimations.  

2021 oil demand is now forecast at 95.89m bpd. That’s down 410,000 from the original OPEC projections published in the November MOMR. In October, OPEC had estimated 2021 oil demand to be 96.8m bpd. 

One key aspect of balancing price vs demand vs production will be member and ally compliance. There has already been a bit of dissention within the ranks, with likes of Saudi Arabia considering giving up its chairman position, for instance. Some producers within OPEC’s sphere of influence are steadfastly sticking to their own production targets, regardless of limits and stops. 

Libya has voiced its plans to increase its oil production and has previously stated that it will not accept any production quota until such a point where it can reliably produce 1.7 million bpd—compared to its current 1.108 million bpd. 

Iran, too, has promised to increase its oil production to 2.3 million bpd in 2021, up from 1.986 million bpd now. 

FOMC Meeting Minutes 

Minutes from the latest Fed meeting are on tap – giving a clearer indication of possible dissension over the extent to which the FOMC feels it needs to anchor long-term rates and whether further policy support is required. The question for the Fed is starting to pivot towards the reflation trade and rising long-term rates. 

Rising inflation expectations may be a problem for the Fed as it could force it into tightening sooner than previously expected. Whilst average inflation targeting gives it some leeway, we’ll be paying close to attention to whether individual policymakers are starting to fret over inflation and the need for more restraint in monetary policy.  

Nonfarm Payrolls 

The December jobs report caps off the week on Friday with surging Covid cases in the US likely to weigh on demand, albeit seasonal hiring will be a factor to considerIn November, a further 245,000 jobs were added to the US economy, whilst the unemployment rate edged down to 6.7%. This was well below the run rate of the last 6 months and indicated a slowing in hiring as case counts rose across the country. 

However, markets seem to be largely happy to overlook a softer pace of recovery in the jobs market though thanks to vaccines – December‘s report is backwards-looking and will reflect surging case numbers and new lockdown restrictions across multiple states. Moreover, soft jobs numbers only underline the need for sustained monetary and fiscal stimulus – we’re in a bad news is good news phase. 

Georgia Runoffs 

Voters will go to the polls for the Georgia Runoffs on January 5th in an election that will decide control of the Senate for the first two years of Joe Biden’s presidency. 

This will be exceptionally important, as a Blue Senate should mean easier passage of Biden’s agenda, which is pointed towards green energy and investment. However, the chances of a slim Republican majority seem pretty gooddespite November’s slim Democrat victory in the presidential elections, which would mean less regulatory and tax overhang. 

Outlook 2021 webinar 

Tuesday 5th January, 12.00 GMT 

Want to know what the key market topics will be in the new year? We’re asking the big questions with this webinar: Will inflation be the dog that finally barks? Will the UK stock market finally catch up? Will vaccines spur a reflationary return to normal environment? Join chief market analyst Neil Wilson to get the answers to the big questions in our 2021 Outlook. 

Sign up 

Major economic data 

Date  Time (GMT)  Currency  Event 
Mon Jan 4th  9.00am  EUR  Final Manufacturing PMI 
       
  9.30am  GBP  Final Manufacturing PMI 
       
  All Day  All  OPEC-JMMC Meeting 
       
  2.30pm  CAD  Manufacturing PMI 
       
  3.00pm  USD  ISM Manufacturing PMI 
       
Tue Jan 5th  9.30am  GBP  Construction PMI 
       
Wed Jan 6th  9.00am  EUR  Final Services PMI 
       
  9.30am  GBP  Final Services PMI 
       
  1.15pm  USD  ADP Nonfarm Employment Change 
       
  3.00pm  USD  ISM Services PMI 
       
  3.30pm  USD  US Crude Oil Inventories 
       
  7.00pm  USD  FOMC Meeting Minutes 
       
Thu Jan 7th  10.00am  EUR  CPI Flash Estimate 
       
  10.00am  EUR  Core CPI Flash Estimate 
       
  1.30pm  USD  Unemployment Changes 
       
  3.30pm  USD  US Natural Gas Inventories 
       
Fri Jan 8th  1.30am  CNH  CPI y/y 
       
  1.30am  CNH  PPI y/y 
       
  1.30pm  CAD  Employment Change 
       
  1.30pm  CAD  Unemployment Rate 
       
  1.30pm  USD  Average Hourly Earnings m/m 
       
  1.30pm  USD  Nonfarm Employment Change 
       
  1.30pm  USD  Unemployment Rate 
       
  3.00pm  CAD  Ivey PMI 

 

Key earnings data 

Date  Company  Event 
Mon Jan 4th  State Street Corp.  Q4 2021 Earnings 
     
Wed Jan 6th  RPM International  Q2 2021 Earnings 
     
Thu Jan 7th  Micron Technology  Q1 2021 Earnings 
     
  Constellation Brands  Q3 2021 Earnings 
     
  Walgreens Boots Alliance  Q1 2021 Earnings 
     
  ConAgra Foods  Q2 2021 Earnings 
     
  Lamb Weston Holdings  Q2 2021 Earnings 
     
Fri Jan 8th  Tata Consultancy Services  Q3 2021 Earnings 

CySEC (EU)

  • Client’s funds are kept in segregated bank accounts
  • FSCS Investor Compensation up to EUR20,000
  • 1,000,000 insurance cover** 
  • Negative Balance Protection

Products

  • CFD
  • Share Dealing
  • Strategy Builder

Markets.com, operated by Safecap Investments Limited (“Safecap”) Regulated by CySEC under licence no. 092/08 and FSCA under licence no. 43906.

FSC (GLOBAL)

  • Clients’ funds kept in segregated bank accounts
  • Electronic Verification
  • Negative Balance Protection
  • $1,000,000 insurance cover** 

Products

  • CFD
  • Strategy Builder

Markets.com, operated by Finalto (BVI) Ltd by the BVI Financial Services Commission (‘FSC’) under licence no. SIBA/L/14/1067.

FCA (UK)

  • Client’s funds are kept in segregated bank accounts
  • FSCS Investor Compensation up to GBP85,000
    *depending on criteria and eligibility
  • £1,000,000 insurance cover** 
  • Negative Balance Protection

Products

  • CFD
  • Spread Bets
  • Strategy Builder

Markets.com operated by Finalto Trading Ltd. Regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”) under licence number 607305.

ASIC (AU)

  • Clients’ funds kept in segregated bank accounts
  • Electronic Verification
  • Negative Balance Protection
  • $1,000,000 insurance cover**

Products

  • CFD

Markets.com, operated by Finalto (Australia) Pty Ltd Holds Australian Financial Services Licence no. 424008 and is regulated in the provision of financial services by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (“ASIC”).

Selecting one of these regulators will display the corresponding information across the entire website. If you would like to display information for a different regulator, please select it. For more information click here.

**Terms & conditions apply. Click here to read full policy.

Marketsi
An individual approach to investing.

Whether you’re investing for the long-term, medium-term or even short-term, Marketsi puts you in control. You can take a traditional approach or be creative with our innovative Investment Strategy Builder tool, our industry-leading platform and personalised, VIP service will help you make the most of the global markets without the need for intermediaries.

La gestión de acciones del grupo Markets se ofrece en exclusiva a través de Safecap Investments Limited, regulada por la Comisión de Bolsa y Valores de Chipre (CySEC) con número de licencia 092/08. Le estamos redirigiendo al sitio web de Safecap.

Redirigir

Are you lost?

We’ve noticed you’re on the site. As you are connecting from a location in the you should therefore consider re-entering , which is subject to the product intervention measures. Whilst you’re free to browse here on your own exclusive initiative, viewing the site for your country will display the corresponding regulatory information and relevant protections of the company you choose. Would you like to be redirected to ?