Insuring US Debt Rises Dramatically As Debt Ceiling Showdown Nears

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On Thursday, U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner told the press he expects lawmakers will avoid a government shutdown, but he said Republicans will require that specific demands be met before agreeing to continue funding the government.

The cost to insure the U.S. government for a year against a default has risen dramatically over this past week as the showdown over lifting the debt ceiling nears. 

The figure has now climbed to its highest level in two years, reports the Wall Street Journal. The Treasury Department continues to stare down a possible crisis, saying on Wednesday that by Oct. 17 it would only have $30 million remaining to pay the nation's bills -- money that will be good for only one to two weeks if Congress doesn't raise the debt ceiling. 

Lawmakers remain deadlocked on increasing the debt ceiling, with several Republicans saying on Thursday they will approve an increase only if a long list of demands is met, reports the New York Times. Their agenda includes scrapping the Affordable Care Act and a decrease in tax rates. Meanwhile, a failure to pass a continuing resolution could mean a government shutdown even sooner -- next week. 

As a result of the uncertainty, the cost to insure the U.S. government's $10 million debt for a single year has increased close to sixfold from last Friday to a total of €31,000 or $41,930, says Markit data. This amount is quoted in euros, securing investors from worry that the value of the hedge will decrease simultaneously with the currency. The total cost of insuring the debt is reached using derivatives known as credit-default swaps.

The current cost of insuring debt for the next year now equals the same cost of insuring it for five years -- a gap that hasn't been seen since the last congressional near-disaster over the debt ceiling that occurred in mid-2011. Though the U.S. government has yet to offer any planned actions if the debt ceiling isn't raised, some investors suspect the government would continue to make interest payments on the debt to avoid a default. 

 

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