Goldman Sachs: Debt default is “extremely unlikely”
Here is what President Obama said this morning:
As all of you know, I met with congressional leaders yesterday. We’re going to be meeting again today, and we’re going to meet every single day until we get this thing resolved.
The good news is that all the leaders continue to believe, rightly, that it is not acceptable for us not to raise the debt ceiling and to allow the U.S. government to default. We cannot threaten the United States’ full faith and credit for the first time in our history.
But markets don’t seem concerned. Interest rates remain at rock-bottom levels. Why? Investors know the financial and budgetary math makes a default the longest of long shots. Here is a bit from a research note just out from Goldman Sachs (bold is mine):
There are essentially two plausible outcomes. One is that the two sides agree on a deal in coming weeks, with headline cuts of $2+ trillion over a 10-year horizon, probably mostly composed of discretionary spending caps that gradually squeeze projected outlays in a highly back-end loaded fashion. The other outcome – whose probability has unfortunately risen in recent weeks – is that there is no deal by August 2. Even in this case, we continue to believe a default is extremely unlikely, as the Treasury would likely prioritize interest payments, Social Security and Medicare payments, and “essential” defense payments over other types of spending, and should have enough revenues to cover the essentials. But make no mistake: the negative consequences of failing to make other payments would be very severe. In the month of August, projected outflows exceed projected inflows by about $150bn (not annualized), or about 12% of GDP. Even if we allow for a further decline in cash holdings in the Treasury’s account with the Fed, this means that a failure to reach a deal would imply a huge, immediate fiscal retrenchment. The economic consequences of such a retrenchment would likely force a deal within a few days.
Again, the issue is a government shutdown, not a default.