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An agreement was reached in Congress on October 16th, financing the government through January 15th, and raising the debt ceiling through February 7th. But the many Americans who went back to work Thursday morning have little time to celebrate and can only get a start on bringing the inevitable piles of recent, untouched paperwork up to date. We may see a change in tactics on both sides of the Congressional aisle in the coming resumption of the fight, especially as polls have shown that Americans are very impatient with the argument and, in particular, with the way the world economy has been threatened in the process. But the battle will continue.
Somehow, Congress must find a way of agreeing on very sticky issues that could once again threaten a default of America’s sovereign debt. Most economists predict, at the least, that such a default would greatly impair our nation’s ability to borrow the money it requires to pay its obligations going forward. That would almost certainly translate into higher Treasury security yields and thus higher interest rates for any borrowing attempted by government, private businesses, and individuals. (The rating agency, Fitch, is already rattling its sabers over the possibility of reducing the credit rating of U.S. debt and, not to be outdone, China is grumbling about the need to find a more secure currency than American dollars to serve as the foundation of most world trade.)
Thus, in spite of a brief calm brought on by a temporary agreement, we will probably have lost some credibility (a related form of the word, “credit”) in the world financial community. In any normal lending transaction—including mortgages—a borrower puts him- or herself at risk of foreclosure or higher rates when the debt is not treated as a serious liability whose repayment is a promise the borrower fully intends to honor. It is no different in this case.
There is trouble ahead, most likely, even if we haven’t seen a great deal of trouble resulting yet from the government shutdown. It was only very recently that the 10-year T-note spiked at last to 2.75% and the 6-month bill to 0.16% (granted, not exactly nosebleed heights, but significantly higher than their recent perches). We wonder: Will they resume their lower levels if the agreement among politicians holds? Or will they remain higher, as mortgage rates did when they rose in September?
The good news, In any case, is that rates did not skyrocket, unnerved by what was happening in Congress. Nor did the stock exchanges plummet. The economy remained strong, suggesting that it may be capable of recovering quickly from this recent trauma.