Brace yourself! The debt ceiling standoff continues.
Consumers aren’t optimistic. The Consumer Sentiment Index fell to a six-month low in May, dropping 9.1 percent month-to-month. Participants in the University of Michigan survey were:
- Less concerned about current economic conditions (down 5.4 percent, month-to-month), and
- More concerned about future economic conditions (down 11.7 percent, month-to-month).
They were wary about the outcome of debt ceiling discussions, concerned that policymakers will cause the United States to default on its debt, and apprehensive about how that could impact the economy, according to Director of Surveys Joanne Hsu.
What is the debt ceiling?
The debt ceiling is the amount of money the United States government is allowed to borrow to pay debts it has already incurred. These payments include interest on Treasuries, military salaries, Social Security and Medicare benefits, tax refunds, and other financial obligations. The debt ceiling has been lifted 78 times since 1960.
What happens if policymakers don’t raise the debt ceiling?
No one knows for certain, although many economists, analysts, and the financial press are concerned. Here’s what some have said:
“…the U.S. federal government would face various unpalatable options, ranging from delaying payments to contractors, Social Security recipients, Medicare providers or agencies; to defaults on payments on US government debt.”
—Chris Giles and Colby Smith, Financial Times, May 7, 2023
“A technical failure by the U.S. to meet its obligations would impact those Treasuries coming due most immediately. Bill markets are pricing in some risk of default in early June…A default threatens to spur big moves around the globe, with the prospect of a major economic downturn and a reassessment of Fed monetary policy potentially igniting a perverse bid for Treasury bonds on haven demand. Conversely, a resolution could shift the focus back to the outlook for inflation and the credit cycle for traders betting on whether the era of aggressive Fed interest-rate hikes has peaked.”
—Benjamin Purvis, Michael Mackenzie and Ye Xie, Bloomberg, May 13, 2023
“Potential repercussions of reaching the ceiling include a downgrade by credit rating agencies, increased borrowing costs for businesses and homeowners alike, and a drop off in consumer confidence that could shock the U.S. financial market and tip the economy into recession.”
—Noah Berman, Council on Foreign Relations, May 2, 2023
Many observers believe a deal will be reached before the June 1 deadline. “If you’re a long-term investor, there’s a strong case to do nothing. If history is a guide, a deal to avoid a default will be struck,” reported Lauren Foster of Barron’s.
Last week, major U.S. stock indices finished the week with mixed performance, reported Barron’s. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index lost value, while the Nasdaq Composite gained. The yield on the one-month Treasury bill finished the week 28 basis points higher than where it started.
|Data as of 5/12/23||1-Week||YTD||1-Year||3-Year||5-Year||10-Year|
|Standard & Poor’s 500 Index||-0.3%||7.4%||4.9%||12.8%||8.6%||9.7%|
|Dow Jones Global ex-U.S. Index||-0.9||6.6||6.2||7.2||-0.4||1.6|
|10-year Treasury Note (yield only)||3.5||N/A||2.8||0.7||3.0||1.9|
|Gold (per ounce)||1.0||11.5||10.0||5.9||8.9||3.5|
|Bloomberg Commodity Index||-1.7||-10.3||-20.4||18.0||2.3||-2.6|
S&P 500, Dow Jones Global ex-US, Gold, Bloomberg Commodity Index returns exclude reinvested dividends (gold does not pay a dividend) and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; and the 10-year Treasury Note is simply the yield at the close of the day on each of the historical time periods. Sources: Yahoo! Finance; MarketWatch; djindexes.com; U.S. Treasury; London Bullion Market Association. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. N/A means not applicable.
IT’S A GRILL RUSH!
Since its post-pandemic re-opening, the Chinese economy has been recovering more slowly than many companies and investors anticipated. But there’s one industry that’s red hot: food tourism. Domestic tourists have been flocking to a small industrial city that has become the epicenter of a national obsession with grilling.
Thousands of tourists have been traveling to the central province of Shandong to experience grilled kebabs and taking pictures of the experience for social media. The skewers are cooked, flattened and dipped in garlic chili paste before being coated in sesame seeds and peanuts. According to The Economist, crowds have been so large that arenas are being remade into temporary dining halls, and banks are issuing low-interest loans to support companies in grilling-related industries.
The great grilling frenzy highlights a social media trend that’s currently popular among young people in China: Special-Forces tourism. The mission of these tourists is the experience – find and eat tasty food while forgoing sleep and spending as little time and money as possible. Some travel to more than 10 locations in a single day. Kebabs and a local beer hit the sweet spot for special-forces tourists. Altogether, the meal and drink cost hungry travelers about $0.40 in US dollars.
Kebabs are a delicious addition to summer grilling recipes.
Weekly Focus – Think About It
“Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.”
—Ruth Reichl, chef, writer, and editor