“The storm has passed!”
“Disaster has been averted!”
Don’t you feel better? Of the various flavors of Armageddon being pitched over the last month or more, one of the most dire was the threat that the Big Three credit ratings agencies would downgrade our super-duper triple A status unless we got our fiscal house in order. Investors would be jittery and demand a better deal prior to purchasing any of America’s shabby paper.
So with the latest version of the new, new deal nearly inked, we’ve at least dodged that bullet, right? Not so fast, says the CEO of PIMCO.
One of the most prominent global investors says that a potential budget deal in Washington will only bring short-term relief, and it won’t remove the threat of a U.S. debt downgrade by credit rating agencies.
“I think this compromise will lead to an increase in the debt ceiling, and therefore avoid default,” said Mohamed El-Erian, CEO of PIMCO, a global investment firm and one of the world’s largest bond investors said today on ABC’s “This Week With Christiane Amanpour.” “But this relief will be short.”
“We have one rating agency out there that said it would downgrade unless certain things happen, and these things are not happening fast enough,” El-Erian said of the budget framework being negotiated.
“If the U.S. loses that AAA status, it will be much more difficult for the U.S. to restore growth, so it’s unambiguously bad,” El-Erian added.
The problem was never a question of default vs. no default. First, we were never going to fail to pay the interest on our debts. We simply wouldn’t have paid a bunch of other bills. But clearly that wasn’t the real underlying fear of either investors or creditors. What they were waiting to see was if we were on a path toward long term fiscal stability or if they would have to sit through this same waiting game from now on every time we ran out of cash.
Even if the currently proposed deal goes through, the “problem” for the world market doesn’t go away forever. It just gets to sit on the bench for a year or two. It’s not just the red or black numbers on the balance sheet, but the glide path that we are on. Are we heading toward a more fiscally stable future, or just heading toward the cliff at a more leisurely pace?
Obviously PIMCO’s CEO seems to be leaning toward the latter. Video of the interview follows, with apologies for including Christiane Amanpour when you may still be enjoying your morning coffee.