Nearly seven years later, with the US on the verge of another government shutdown and debt ceiling breach (with the agreement reached only after the midnight hour, literally) this time it is Warren Buffett’s own rating agency, Moody’s, which on Friday morning warned Trump that he too should prepare for a downgrade form the one rater that kept quiet in 2011. The reason: Trump’s – and the Republicans and Democrats – aggressive fiscal policies which will sink the US even deeper into debt insolvency, while widening the budget deficit, resulting in “meaningful fiscal deterioration.”
In short: a US downgrade due to Trumponomics is inevitable. And incidentally, with today’s 2-year debt ceiling extension, it means that once total US debt resets at end of day – unburdened by the debt ceiling – it will be at or just shy of $21 trillion.
We expect if not a full downgrade, then certainly a revision in the outlook from Stable to Negative in the coming months.
The stable credit profile of the United States (Aaa stable) is likely to face downward pressure in the long-term, due to meaningful fiscal deterioration amid increasing levels of national debt and a widening federal budget deficit. However, the US economy is very strong, wealthy, dynamic and well diversified, and its role in the global financial system is unmatched. These factors help compensate for the impending fiscal weakness, Moody’s Investors Service says in a new report.
Moody’s has already indicated that rising entitlement costs and rising interest rates will cause the US’s fiscal position to further erode over the next decade, absent measures to reduce those costs or to raise additional revenues. The recently-agreed tax reform will exacerbate and bring forward those pressures.
Moody’s current baseline forecast is that the sovereign balance sheet will continue to weaken over the coming decade. Absent corrective fiscal measures, the US’s Aaa rating will rely increasingly on its unparalleled economic base and the central role it plays in the global financial system.
The US economy’s dynamism, competitiveness, rich resource endowment, high income levels and relatively supportive demographic trends underpin its economic strength. While evidence of declining growth potential, coupled with emerging aversion to open trade and foreign labor during a period of rising global competition, suggest that this level of relative strength could erode over time, we expect the US’ broad economic strength to support its credit profile for the foreseeable future.
Moreover, the role of the US dollar in global financial markets and the depth and liquidity of the US treasury market remove all but the most extreme government liquidity and balance of payment risks. They insulate the US from external shocks and shifts in financing conditions in a way not seen with other sovereigns.
Moody’s research subscribers can access this report, “Preeminent financial, economic position offsets weakening government finances”, at http://www.moodys.com/researchdocumentcontentpage.aspx?docid=PBM_1108357
The SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY) was trading at $260.36 per share on Friday morning, up $2.73 (+1.06%). Year-to-date, SPY has declined -2.44%.
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