Amid warnings that the U.S. government could run out of money to pay its bills sooner than expected, analysts are predicting lots of posturing in Washington in the days and weeks ahead — and therefore potentially choppy markets.
The Bipartisan Policy Center on Monday estimated the Treasury could hit its debt ceiling in the first half of September. Then on Friday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin cautioned House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other congressional leaders about “a scenario in which we run out of cash in early September, before Congress reconvenes,” as he urged them to raise the debt limit before the House starts its six-week August recess on July 26.
The Bipartisan Policy Center’s prediction “could mean that September is a volatile month in Washington and for financial markets,” said KBW analysts in a note.
“‘Normal’ does not live in Washington anymore, so while we think chances favor a resolution on the issue, we also need to acknowledge that the chances Congress will drop the ball have risen,” they also wrote. KBW’s team said both Republicans and Democrats want to avoid another partial government shutdown, but the “December/January shutdown showed that political compromise is a lost art and a repeat of that shutdown is possible, even if unlikely.”
Meanwhile, Capital Alpha Partners analysts said they “expect a budget-related kerfuffle in September” following the think tank’s warning on Monday. They said Mnuchin and Mick Mulvaney, President Donald Trump’s chief of staff, don’t look likely to succeed in their effort to separate the debt-limit issue from funding matters. Pelosi has repeatedly said the Democratic-controlled House won’t pass legislation to increase the government’s borrowing cap until the Trump administration agrees to boost spending limits on domestic programs.
“We anticipate the building of mild suspense over the debt limit,” Capital Alpha’s team wrote.
“This will likely include headlines on how the safe and rational thing to do would be to extend the ceiling, alone or alongside a funding agreement, before the August recess. Nevertheless, we expect failure in such efforts, leaving the issue for lawmakers to address when they return in September.”
Mnuchin and Pelosi reportedly discussed the debt limit and spending caps for about 20 minutes on Friday afternoon and likely will talk again this weekend.