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What a difference two weeks makes.
In mid-September, the markets were certain that the Federal Reserve was about to start tapering its quantitative easing program. But the Fed surprised investors on Sept. 18 by maintaining the pace of asset purchases, and quite a bit has changed since.
Both the government shutdown and the weaker-than-expected ADP jobs number have given the Fed solid reasons to be concerned about the recovery. And before you say that the jobs number was only the ADP number rather than the official Non-Farm Payrolls measure, remember that the shutdown means we won't get the official government number Friday, so the ADP number is all we have to go on.
Ron Paul says his fellow Republicans aren't as committed to cutting government spending as it may seem.
The Republicans "are putting the money back in the budget in the continuing resolution for the military expenditures. So you know they're not serious," the former congressman said on Tuesday's "Futures Now." "Neither side is serious about cutting back. They're just trying to bamboozle the American people into believing that you have to keep spending forever."
Paul says that the Republican Party's lack of focus has sapped the power of their anti-Obamacare arguments.
Forget the U.S. government shutdown, markets are most concerned about raising the debt ceiling and avoiding another U.S. debt downgrade, professor Jeremy Siegel of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania told CNBC on Tuesday.
"The biggest fear is another downgrade of the debt such as S&P did two years ago," he said. The longer the U.S. government shutdown wears on, the greater the fear that when the debt ceiling needs to be raised, that it will be delayed. If that happens, the Treasury won't be able to pay its bills, and it could trigger another downgrade, he explained.
(Read more: Here comes the DC shutdown: What you need to know)
"The probability is very, very low but if there is any default or begin to default on U.S. Treasury bonds, there will be chaos in the market," he warned.
The Commodities King is bullish on stocks. Very bullish.
Dennis Gartman, the founder of The Gartman Letter, told CNBC.com that despite D.C. dysfunction, a schizophrenic Federal Reserve and a volatile Middle East, he's the most positive he's been on stocks in months.
"There are three things you can count on," Gartman told "Futures Now." "You can count on the fact that the sun is going to rise. You can count on your Mom loving you. And you can count on the fact that debt ceiling talk has been discounted by the market. The economy is clearly getting better, not just here but around the world."
Gartman is quick to point out that despite all the chatter and hand-wringing about the recent decline in the S&P 500, the index has only fallen about 2 percent from its recent high—not exactly something to get too worried about. In fact, stocks have been so strong, that the S&P 500 hasn't seen a 10 percent decline since April of 2012. That would be 16 months. Prior to April 2012, the longest stretch without a 10 percent decline took place from March 2003 to July 2007.
So much for that September swoon.
Despite the recent losing streak, the S&P 500 is still poised to close out its best September in three years, and this all comes in the face of Syria, continued dysfunction in Washington and agita about the Federal Reserve (more on that later).
But stocks weren't the only surprise in September. The real shocker was the surprise performance in bonds.
(Read more: Expect a relief rally in bonds: JPM)
Curiously enough, the move up in Treasurys prices (yield and prices move inversely) started well before equities started to head south. And despite some decent economic data over the past two weeks, there hasn't been much renewed taper talk. Maybe that's because the market views Janet Yellen as more of a dove than Chairman Ben Bernanke.
(Read more: Brace for 'Octaper' or buy dips?)
So what is behind the move in bonds? Perhaps it's the mild decline in equities, which sounds pretty crazy. I think the more likely reason for the move is the continued chaos out of Washington. Shutdown aside, the government's very close to running out of money unless it raises its debt ceiling limit.
That debate will dominate the tone and tenor of trading in likely driving the price action in bonds Thursday. In the absence of any additional news, I believe the bond yields will continue to creep lower until we see significant employment data.
When most towns need trash cans, they use money raised from taxes or municipal bonds. But when a city that emerged from bankruptcy less than a year ago needs trash cans, a touch of creativity is required. That's why Central Falls, R.I., is trying to use a method more commonly associated with Internet start-ups and low-budget movies: Crowdfunding.
In 2011, Central Falls became the only Rhode Island city to ever file for bankruptcy. And while the impoverished 1.2-square-mile city of about 20,000 residents never missed a bond payment, pensions were slashed, and the city budget became very tight. So tight, in fact, that the city couldn't afford to buy trash cans for its public park.
"We have these plastic blue bins that we literally got for free from the state," explained Stephen Larrick, the city's director of planning and economic development. "They're not mounted to the ground at all. So if they're empty, they will just blow over. Or kids will push them over. And the trash gets everywhere."
In addition to being unsightly, the spilled trash increases the city's maintenance costs. And since the cans don't provide a recycling option, Central Falls is also paying more than necessary to landfills, and missing out on a Rhode Island recycling-based rebate.
But due to the city's precarious financial situation, simply buying trash cans proved a daunting task for Central Falls.
"The outlook is bleak to get additional things funded," said Larrick (who is a college acquaintance of the author). "I don't have a line item that would cover that."
That point was emphasized by Len Morganis, the city's administration and finance officer, who is responsible for ensuring that the city abides by its bankruptcy plan. "There's very little discretionary spending," Morganis said. "There is not a lot of room for, 'Hey, this just came up, let's put ten grand towards it.' That doesn't happen."
And the city won't turn to the bond market for additional funding anytime soon. The city hasn't issued debt since the bankruptcy, and according to Morganis, "that's a long way off. We haven't even talked about it."
After all, even though Moody's recently upgraded the city's credit rating from B1 to B2, Morganis said bond issuance "would still be too cost-prohibitive."
Gasoline futures have been falling since late July, and the decline has accelerated in the past few weeks. So can gas fall more? You bet it can.
As we move into the fourth quarter, we are entering the lowest period for gas demand, seasonally speaking. In fact, demand last week alone fell by 180,000 barrels.
Going back over the past few years, the charts tell a clear story: year after year, prices have declined into the winter. There is now a real possibility that we could see $3.40 to $3.50 on the spot contract very soon.
Bank of America's top equity technical strategist warns that the 1,700 level is hugely important for the S&P 500. And now that the market closed below that round number, the index could be due for a drop down to 1,650.
"It is an important level," Stephen Suttmeier told CNBC on Tuesday's "Futures Now." The dip below 1,700 "calls into question the breakout that we just saw in the S&P 500. So that 'limbo line' is very important."
(Read more: Here's why I'm shorting the market today: Pro)
Indeed, the S&P was trading just above 1,700 a week ago before the Federal Reserve's announcement that it would not taper the pace of asset purchases quickly sent the market up to 1,729, an all-time high. But over the next four days of trading, the market traded all the way down to 1,695.
It's the market's most important question. And this expert says that traders are getting the answer all wrong.
Now that the Federal Reserve has shocked the market by maintaining the pace of its asset purchases, the market desperately wants to know when the Fed will, in fact, begin to taper its quantitative easing program.
Some speculate that the Fed will announce tapering in its December statement, while others contend that tapering could come as soon as October. But David Robin, co-head of financial futures and options at Newedge, makes a strong case that a tapering announcement is still further away than many think.
"I don't think they start tapering until the early part of 2014," Robin told CNBC on Tuesday's "Futures Now."
For Robin, October is out of the question. First of all, if economic conditions don't yet support a reduction of quantitative easing, then they still won't support tapering in a few weeks.
"Even if you get a strong payroll number in the early part of October, you're still going to have an above-7-percent [unemployment] rate, you're still going to have smoothed-out nonfarm payrolls growth below 200,000," Robin said. "That is not the recipe for removing tapering."
Plus, there is a logistical problem with tapering in October. As Robin points out, there is no press conference scheduled to follow the Fed's Oct. 30 statement. That means that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke wouldn't be given a chance to ease the market's concerns following any tapering announcement.
Equity markets have been trading heavy for several days, despite the taper delay and some decent economic data. This means the market is probably due for a corrective pause.
Yes, the good headlines outnumber the bad. The Federal Reserve is still behind this market in a big way, with Chairman Ben Bernanke refusing to slow the pace of asset purchases. And it appears very likely that Janet Yellen will be the next Fed chair, which will mean more easy policies going forward.
(Read more: The million-dollar bet that markets will get rocky)
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