Good one, S&P!
S&P downgraded its outlook on the US, but the prediction is nothing but a joke
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We had other notes prepared for you this morning, but then this headline crept across our screen:
“S&P Moves US Outlook to Negative”
The Wall Street Journal provides some details…
“Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services Inc. cut its outlook on the US to negative, increasing the likelihood of a potential downgrade from its triple-A rating, as the path from large budget deficits and rising government debt remains unclear.”
Stock markets, which apparently still hold faith in the ratings agencies’ foresight (despite the agencies’ best efforts to avoid deserving it), promptly reversed course from their ever-and-always upward trend after the news. The Dow, for its part, fell a couple hundred points at the open. The S&P 500 and the NASDAQ were last seen bleeding from similar sized wounds.
Could it be the impending breech of that looming debt ceiling that has the ratings gurus spooked?
“Given the fact the US government is 28 days away from bumping up against the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling,” wrote Addison in today’s edition of The 5, “we suspect the question of Uncle Sam’s ability, let alone political will, to pay is too obvious to ignore.”
Even the most “aggressive” cuts to the budget would still require heretofore-unimaginable levels of new borrowing and/or money printing. Continues Sr. Wiggin:
“The current White House budget plan requires lifting the ceiling to $20.8 trillion by 2016. Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan, passed by the House on Friday, would require a ceiling of $19.5 trillion, according to figures compiled by Bloomberg.”
Of course, even Rep. Ryan’s plan is likely to fall flat in the Democrat-controlled Senate. But aside from all that, the debt ceiling story is hardly anything new, as Addison’s letter to deaf ears, penned way back in January, shows.
Whatever their reason for the outlook adjustment, S&P is still, for the moment, committed to maintaining the US’s AAA rating. Of course, readers will do well to remember the appalling track record of the three, government-anointed agencies before and during the last (and, in many peoples’ opinions, ongoing) financial crisis. All of the so-called “Big Three” – S&P, Moody’s and Fitch – were trotting out AAA ratings for the most toxic MBSs on Wall Street right up until their collapse brought us, in one frantic politician’s words, “to the edge of the abyss,” back in 2007-08.