In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today, September 28, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told Congress that the U.S. will run out of flexibility to avoid breaching the debt limit on October 18.
If the Treasury can’t continue juggling obligations past that date, the U.S. government will go into at least a selective default. “It is uncertain whether we could continue to meet all the nation’s commitments after that date,” Yellen wrote.
Yellen’s letter stressed that even narrowly avoiding a debt default could hurt taxpayers. “We know from previous debt limit impasses that waiting until the last minute can cause serous harm to business and consumer confidence, raise borrowing costs for taxpayers, and negatively impact the credit rating of the United States for years to come,” she wrote in the letter. “Failure to act promptly could also result in substantial disruptions to financial markets, as heightened uncertainty can exacerbate volatility and erode investor confidence.”
Unfortunately, the best outcome on raising or suspending the debt ceiling will take the government right up to Yellen’s deadline. Senate Republicans have said they will not provide a single vote for raising or suspending the debt ceiling. Which will leave Senate Democrats to pass a debt ceiling vote through reconciliation in order to avoid a Republican filibuster.
That’s a time consuming process under Senate rules and could, experts on Senate process say, take as long was two weeks.
Which would get legislation on raising or suspending the debt ceiling in under the deadline–but just barely. And that’s if everything goes on plan.
Reflecting the uncertainties and dangers all this presents to the financial markets, the yield on the 10-year Treasury rose another 4 basis points this morning to 1.52%.
The CBOE S&P 500 Volatility Index (VIX) was up 23.51% as of the close to 23.17. The VIX, which reflects the prices that investors and traders are willing to pay to hedge risk, was at 17.75 on September 24, Thursday of last week. Fear is back on the march, it’s safe to say.
Today, September 28, as of the close the Standard & Poor’s 500 was down 2.04% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average was lower by 1.63%. The NASDAQ Composite was off 2.83%, the NASDAQ 100 had tumbled 2.86%, and the Russell 2000 had lost 2.34%.
It’s unusual this year for the small cap Russell 2000 to be less sensitive to market sentiment than the tech heavy NASDAQ 100. But today BIG TECH is leading the sell off with, at the close, Apple (AAPL) down 2.38%, Alphabet (GOOG) down 3.76%, Facebook (FB) down 3.66%, Amazon (AMZN) down 2.64%, and Microsoft (MSFT) down 3.62%.