The exact date that the federal government could run out of accounting gimmicks and actually default on the national debt is open to debate. Could be June or July or as late as December or even sometime in 2024. The estimates are all over the block. Which is one reason that the stock market isn’t pricing in this potential event.
The timing largely depends on the pace of tax payments. The more the government collects and the sooner, the farther away a default would be.
Now with income tax day upon us, Yahoo Finance is reporting two new studies that say a default is on the schedule for earlier than expected.
Goldman Sachs Economic Research wrote in a new note today that “weak tax collections so far in April suggest an increased probability that the debt limit deadline will be reached in the first half of June.” Their conclusion is based on weaker receipts through April 14 with full data expected in the coming weeks. In its February update, Goldman targeted mid-August as the likely deadline. Goldman projects that a decline of 35% to 40% “would be consistent with an early June deadline” and added that their data so far shows tax receipts down 39% from last year.
Similarly, analysts at Wrightson ICAP, a company that specializes in tracking government cash flows, also noted this week that if tax data remains soft, “a June X-date might start to look like a significant risk without becoming our base case.”Wrightson said it currently forecasts “the Treasury’s remaining fiscal resources…would run below $100 billion from June 6 to June 13.”
Investors should have more clarity on cash flow from taxes by early May. Analysts at the Congressional Budget Office and the Bipartisan Policy Center likely will release their own estimates in the coming weeks.
The odds are increasing, Goldman notes, that Congress will need to reach a deal within weeks.
I’d note, however, that there are no signs that Congress is on a path to reach a deal in that time period.