What it would mean for the global economy if the US defaults on its debt
WASHINGTON — If the debt crisis roiling Washington were eventually to send the United States crashing into recession, America’s economy would hardly sink alone.
The repercussions of a first-ever default on the federal debt would quickly reverberate around the world. Orders for Chinese factories that sell electronics to the United States could dry up. Swiss investors who own U.S. Treasurys would suffer losses. Sri Lankan companies could no longer deploy dollars as an alternative to their own dodgy currency.
“No corner of the global economy will be spared’’ if the U.S. government defaulted and the crisis weren’t resolved quickly, said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics.
Zandi and two colleagues at Moody’s have concluded that even if the debt limit were breached for no more than week, the U.S. economy would weaken so much, so fast, as to wipe out roughly1.5 million jobs.
And if a government default were to last much longer — well into the summer — the consequences would be far more dire, Zandi and his colleagues found in their analysis: U.S. economic growth would sink, 7.8 million American jobs would vanish, borrowing rates would jump, the unemployment rate would soar from the current 3.4% to 8% and a stock-market plunge would erase $10 trillion in household wealth.
Of course, it might not come to that. The White House and House Republicans, seeking a breakthrough, concluded a round of debt-limit negotiations Sunday, with plans to resume talks Monday. The Republicans have threatened to let the government default on its debts by refusing to raise the statutory limit on what it can borrow unless President Joe Biden and the Democrats accept sharp spending cuts and other concessions.
US DEBT, LONG VIEWED AS ULTRA-SAFE
Feeding the anxiety is the fact that so much financial activity hinges on confidence that America will always pay its financial obligations. Its debt, long viewed as an ultra-safe asset, is a foundation of global commerce, built on decades of trust in the United States. A default could shatter the $24 trillion market for Treasury debt, cause financial markets to freeze up and ignite an international crisis.
“A debt default would be a cataclysmic event, with an unpredictable but probably dramatic fallout on U.S. and global financial markets,’’ said Eswar Prasad, professor of trade policy at Cornell University and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
The threat has emerged just as the world economy is contending with a panoply of threats — from surging inflation and interest rates to the ongoing repercussions of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to the tightening grip of authoritarian regimes. On top of all that, many countries have grown skeptical of America’s outsize role in global finance.
In the past, American political leaders generally managed to step away from the brink and raise the debt limit before it was too late. Congress has raised, revised or extended the borrowing cap 78 times since 1960, most recently in 2021.
Yet the problem has worsened. Partisan divisions in Congress have widened while the debt has grown after years of rising spending and deep tax cuts. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned that the government could default as soon as June 1 if lawmakers don’t raise or suspend the ceiling.
‘SHOCKWAVES THROUGH THE SYSTEM’
“If the trustworthiness of (Treasurys) would become impaired for any reason, it would send shockwaves through the system … and have immense consequences for global growth,’’ said Maurice Obstfeld, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund.
Treasurys are widely used as collateral for loans, as a buffer against bank losses, as a haven in times of high uncertainty and as a place for central banks to park foreign exchange reserves.
Given their perceived safety, the U.S. government’s debts — Treasury bills, bonds and notes — carry a risk weighting of zero in international bank regulations. Foreign governments and private investors hold nearly $7.6 trillion of the debt — roughly 31% of the Treasurys in financial markets.
Because the dollar’s dominance has made it the de facto global currency since World War II, it’s relatively easy for the United States to borrow and finance an ever-growing pile of government debt.
But high demand for dollars also tends to make them more valuable than other currencies, and that imposes a cost: A strong dollar makes American goods pricier relative to their foreign rivals, leaving U.S. exporters at a competitive disadvantage. That’s one reason why the United States has run trade deficits every year since 1975.
CENTRAL BANKS’ STOCKPILES OF DOLLARS
Of all the foreign exchange reserves held by the world’s central banks, U.S. dollars account for 58%. No. 2 is the euro: 20%. China’s yuan makes up under 3%, according to the IMF.
Researchers at the Federal Reserve have calculated that from 1999 to 2019, 96% of trade in the Americas was invoiced in U.S. dollars. So was 74% of trade in Asia. Elsewhere outside of Europe, where the euro dominates, dollars accounted for 79% of trade.
So reliable is America’s currency that merchants in some unstable economies demand payment in dollars, instead of their own country’s currency. Consider Sri Lanka, battered by inflation and a dizzying drop in the local currency. Earlier this year, shippers refused to release 1,000 containers of urgently needed food unless they were paid in dollars. The shipments piled up at the docks in Colombo because the importers weren’t able to obtain dollars to pay the suppliers.
“Without (dollars), we can’t do any transaction,” said Nihal Seneviratne, a spokesman for Essential Food Importers and Traders Association. “When we import, we have to use hard currency — mostly the U.S. dollars.’’
Likewise, many shops and restaurants in Lebanon, where inflation has raged and the currency has plunged, are demanding payment in dollars. In 2000, Ecuador responded to an economic crisis by replacing its own currency, the sucre, with dollars — a process called “dollarization’’ — and has stuck with it.
THE GO-TO HAVEN FOR INVESTORS
Even when a crisis originates in the United States, the dollar is invariably the go-to haven for investors. That’s what happened in late 2008, when the collapse of the U.S. real estate market toppled hundreds of banks and financial firms, including once-mighty Lehman Brothers: The dollar’s value shot up.
“Even though we were the problem — we, the United States — there was still a flight to quality,’’ said Clay Lowery, who oversees research at the Institute of International Finance, a banking trade group. “The dollar is king.’’
If the United States were to pierce the debt limit without resolving the dispute and the Treasury defaulted on its payments, Zandi suggests that the dollar would once again rise, at least initially, “because of the uncertainty and the fear. Global investors just wouldn’t know where to go except to where they always go when there’s a crisis and that’s to the United States.’’
But the Treasury market would likely be paralyzed. Investors might shift money instead into U.S. money market funds or the bonds of top-flight U.S. corporations. Eventually, Zandi says, growing doubts would shrink the dollar’s value and keep it down.
GOVERNMENT’S STRATEGY IF DEBT CAP IS BREACHED
In a debt-ceiling crisis, Lowery, who was an assistant Treasury secretary during the 2008 crisis, imagines that the United States would continue to make interest payments to bondholders. And it would try to pay its other obligations — to contractors and retirees, for example — in the order that those bills became due and as money became available.
For bills that were due on June 3, for example, the government might pay on June 5. A bit of relief would come around June 15. That’s when government revenue would pour in in as many taxpayers make estimated tax payments for the second quarter.
The government would likely be sued by those who weren’t getting paid — “anybody who lives off veterans’ benefits or Social Security,’’ Lowery said. And ratings agencies would likely downgrade U.S. debt, even if the Treasury continued to pay interest to bondholders.
The dollar, though it remains dominant globally, has lost some ground in recent years as more banks, businesses and investors have turned to the euro and, to a lesser extent, China’s yuan. Other countries tend to resent how swings in the dollar’s value can hurt their own currencies and economies.
A rising dollar can trigger crises abroad by drawing investment out of other countries and raising their cost of repaying dollar-denominated loans. The United States’ eagerness to use the dollar’s clout to impose financial sanctions against rivals and adversaries is also viewed uneasily by some other countries.
So far, though, no clear alternatives have emerged. The euro lags far behind the dollar. Even more so does China’s yuan; it’s hamstrung by Beijing’s refusal to let its currency trade freely in global markets.
But the debt ceiling drama is sure to heighten questions about the enormous financial power of the United States and the dollar.
“The global economy is in a pretty fragile place right now,’’ Obstfeld said. “So throwing into that mix a crisis over the creditworthiness of U.S. obligations is incredibly irresponsible.’’
AP Writer Bharatha Mallawarachi in Colombo, Sri Lanka, contributed to this report.
Quebec proposes making French mandatory for all economic immigration programs – Canada Immigration News
Quebec Premier Francois Legault has proposed major changes to Quebec’s economic immigration criteria.
Speaking on May 25 with the Minister of Immigration, Francisation and Integration, Christine Frechette and the Minister of the French Language, Jean-François Roberge, Legault says the changes will ensure that nearly 100% of new economic immigrants to Quebec will know French before they arrive in the province by 2026. This is meant to promote Francophone economic immigration in Quebec.
“As we have seen for several years, French is in decline in Quebec,” said Legault. “Since 2018, our government has acted to protect our language, more than other successive governments since the adoption of Bill 101 under the Lévesque government. But if we want to reverse the trend, we must go further. By 2026, our goal is to have almost entirely Francophone economic immigration. We all have a duty, as Quebecers, to speak French, to transmit our culture on a daily basis, and to be proud of it.”
Discover if You Are Eligible for Canadian Immigration
Knowledge of oral French will be required for adults. This is meant to ensure that those who wish to settle in Quebec will be able to communicate in French throughout day-to-day interactions at work and in their communities.
The changes are part of a new permanent immigration program for skilled workers in Quebec. The province says the Skilled Worker Selection Program will “take into account the diverse needs of Quebec.”
Candidates in the program will be evaluated in four categories that have not yet been made clear, but the province says that three of the categories will require that the principal applicant and their accompanying spouse have knowledge of French.
There will also be revisions to existing programs. For example, the work experience requirement will be removed from the Quebec Experience Program for graduate students from a French-language study program.
Family reunification measures include making it mandatory for the guarantor to submit a plan for reception and integration that will support the learning of French for the person they are hosting.
Immigration is a shared responsibility between the federal and provincial governments. Quebec’s agreement is unique from other provinces in that it can select all its economic immigrants. Quebec does not have the authority to select family class sponsorship applicants or those who arrive in Canada as refugees or other humanitarian classes.
For 2023, Quebec has targeted that 65% of newcomers admitted to the province will be economic class.
Increasing immigration numbers in Quebec
The province is also considering raising the number of permanent selection admissions from 50,000 to 60,000 per year by 2027. This is in stark contrast to Legault’s recent comments that there was “no question” of Quebec accepting any rise in the number of newcomers and publicly rejecting the federal Immigration Levels Plan, which has a target of 500,000 permanent residents admitted to Canada each year by the end of 2025.
These changes also follow Quebec’s Immigration Levels Plan for 2023, where it was announced that the province would move away from plans that forecast only the coming year and begin introducing multi-year plans for immigration by 2024.
Why the changes?
Quebec is unique in Canada as it is the only province where French is the official language. The province is fiercely protective of its language, saying it is vital to protecting Quebec’s unique culture and status.
Legault is the leader of the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) and is currently in his second term as Quebec’s premier, having been reelected last October. One of the main pillars of the CAQ party is to protect the French language in Quebec.
Immigration was one of the key issues in the recent election. Throughout his campaign, Legault said that Quebec would allow only 50,000 immigrants per year into the province as it would be difficult to accommodate and integrate more than that into Quebec society. He said that accepting more than that would be “a bit suicidal.”
Regardless, Quebec, like the rest of Canada, is experiencing a labour shortage as the population ages and the birth rate remains low. A report released last March by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business shows that the province could face an annual shortfall of up to nearly 18,000 immigrants, who would be able to fill Quebec’s labour needs.
Discover if You Are Eligible for Canadian Immigration
Lira hits record low, but stocks rise after Erdogan win in Turkey
The Turkish leader won the presidency for a third time after a run-off vote on Sunday.
The Turkish lira has plunged to record lows after the re-election of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a sign that currency markets are not confident in the country’s economic future after the longtime leader’s re-election.
The Turkish currency weakened to 20.01 to the dollar on Monday after the high-stakes run-off a day earlier.
But Turkish stocks, on the other hand, rose as Erdogan entered a third decade in power with the benchmark BIST-100 index up 3.5 percent and the banking index rising more than 1 percent.
The lira fell to a record low as the country battles a cost of living crisis and depleted foreign reserves.
On the campaign trail, Erdogan pledged to slash inflation to single digits and boost economic growth, a message he reiterated in his victory speech late on Sunday. But analysts said his economic policies are unorthodox and predicted they will lead to more pain for Turks.
“In our view, Erdogan’s biggest challenge is Turkey’s economy,” Roger Mark, an analyst at the Ninety One investment management firm told the Reuters news agency. “His victory comes against a backdrop of perilous economic imbalances with his heterodox economic model proving increasingly unsustainable”.
Hasnain Malik, head of equity research at Tellimer, an emerging markets research firm, told the agency: “An Erdogan win offers no comfort for any foreign investor.”
“Only the most optimistic would hope that Erdogan now feels sufficiently secure politically to revert to orthodox economic policy,” he said.
Interest rate cuts sought by Erdogan sparked a devaluation of the Turkish lira in late 2021 and sent inflation to a 24-year peak of 85.5 percent last year. The president had argued that higher interest rates cause inflation while central banks around the world were raising rates to reduce price rises.
Turkey’s struggling economy, also reeling after the country’s devastating double earthquakes in February, was a major thorn in Erdogan’s prospect for re-election.
The leader has defended his economic policies, reassuring Turks that investment, production, exports and an eventual current account surplus will drive up Turkey’s gross domestic product.
U.S. economy and new incentives put Canada at disadvantage in Stellantis negotiations, professor says
Two weeks of negotiations between the federal and provincial governments and Stellantis have failed to produce a new deal for the NextStar EV battery plant in Windsor, Ont. Ian Lee, an associate professor at Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business, says the economic might of the U.S., coupled with the incentives offered in recent legislation, make it extremely challenging for Canada to compete.
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