Treasuries decline amid speculation shutdown may be short-lived

Saps Confidence

The government shutdown isn’t in itself a trigger for a downgrade of the U.S.’s AAA rating, even as the political gridlock undermines confidence in fiscal decision-making and in the nation’s debt limit being raised in time to avert a default, according to a statement by Fitch Ratings.

Standard & Poor’s cut the U.S. rating to AA+ from AAA in August 2011, a move that reflected the impasse over raising the debt limit as well as the government’s lack of a plan to rein in its debt load. While the downgrade didn’t result in investors charging the U.S. more to borrow, it contributed to a global stock-market rout that erased about $6 trillion in value from July 26 to Aug. 12, 2011.

Treasuries extended losses as the Institute for Supply Management’s factory index unexpectedly climbed to the highest level since April 2011. The gauge rose to 56.2 in September, from 55.7 a month earlier, the Tempe, Arizona-based group reported. The median forecast of economists polled by Bloomberg called for a decline to 55. Readings above 50 indicate growth.

Less Important

“The economic data for the moment is not as important, given the uncertainty of the government shutdown,” said Gary Pollack, who manages $12 billion as head of fixed-income trading at Deutsche Bank AG’s Private Wealth Management unit in New York.

Volatility in Treasuries as measured by the Merrill Lynch Option Volatility Estimate Index rose for a fourth day yesterday, increasing 2.8% to 80.16. That’s the longest streak of gains since Sept. 5.

The Labor Department won’t release its monthly employment report on schedule if the government is closed, according to an official in President Barack Obama’s administration who wasn’t authorized to discuss the process and requested anonymity.

The shutdown may help to delay a reduction in the Fed’s purchases of Treasuries and mortgage bonds, according to Citigroup Inc. Policy makers said on Sept. 18 they want more proof of an economic recovery before tapering their $85 billion- a-month program.

The central bank bought $3.16 billion of Treasuries today due from November 2020 to August 2023 under the program.

‘On Hold’

“The Fed has told us they’re on hold for quite some time and we now are not going to get any economic readings for probably a couple of months that are accurate at least,” Michael Plavnik, head of the short-term interest-rate trading desk at Citigroup in London, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “On the Move” with Manus Cranny. “The Fed’s not really going to have a chance to taper really until the first quarter of next year.”

Payrolls increased by 180,000 in September, the most since April, after climbing 169,000 in August, according to a Bloomberg survey. The jobless rate held at 7.3%, a separate survey showed.

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