NYT: Markets Surprisingly Calm as Country Heads for Fiscal Cliff

Friday, 14 Dec 2012 07:48 AM

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The U.S. economy is on course to lunge over the fiscal cliff in a matter of weeks, though markets have been surprisingly calm on faith that the White House and Congress will cut a deal, experts say.

The White House and Congressional Republicans continue to negotiate ways to avoid the fiscal cliff, a combination of tax hikes and deep spending cuts kicking in at the same time early next year, and even though both sides have yet to agree on fiscal reforms needed to avoid the cliff, Wall Street expects policymakers to save the day eventually.

“Clearly there is no nervousness in the market at all,” said David Woo, head of global interest rate research at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, according to The New York Times.

Editor's Note: The ‘Unthinkable’ Could Happen — Wall Street Journal. Prepare for Meltdown

“There is a lot of complacency.”

Stock prices have bumped up and down over fears Washington will drive over the fiscal cliff, which the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has said would tip the country into a recession next year.

Though the Standard & Poor’s 500 is up approximately 14 percent this year.

Taxes serve as a hurdle to progress, with Democrats arguing for tax breaks to end for top U.S. earners, something many Republicans oppose, arguing instead for capping deductions to drum up revenue.

Some Republicans have said they will accept limited tax hikes in exchange for spending cuts elsewhere, which has calmed nerves.

A failure to reach a compromise “just seems like such a low-probability event given that everyone knows what has to happen, and how bad the consequences are if it doesn’t,” Ken Taubes, chief investment officer at Pioneer Investments, told The Times.

But not everyone is calm.

“Many people in the markets feel that it’s unthinkable that Washington would do something this irresponsible,” said Greg Valliere, a researcher at the Potomac Research Group, The Times added.

“After following Washington for 30 years, I would argue it is not unthinkable.”

Markets in the United States and elsewhere enjoyed a welcome distraction from the fiscal cliff when the Federal Reserve announced plans to beef up its stimulus program by buying $45 billion in Treasury holdings a month from banks with the aim of spurring recovery and cutting into high unemployment rates.

The bond purchases come on top of $40 billion in mortgage debt the Fed is currently purchasing from the country’s financial institutions, a policy known as quantitative easing but dubbed by many as printing money out of thin air.

“What really matters is this U.S. budget deal and the prospect that there could be a recession out there,” Mike Lenhoff, chief strategist at Brewin Dolphin Holdings Plc in London, told Bloomberg.

“The markets will hang about until we get a deal or not.”

Editor's Note: The ‘Unthinkable’ Could Happen — Wall Street Journal. Prepare for Meltdown

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