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Debt Fight May Not Spill Over Into Markets: Pros

Tuesday, 15 Jan 2013 | 4:48 PM ET
Sean Egan: Debt Ceiling Downgrade?
Is there a U.S. downgrade on deck? Will bonds rally off a debt debacle? A look at how another standoff will affect the economy, with Sean Egan, Egan-Jones Ratings Co., CNBC's Jackie DeAngelis and the Futures Now Traders.

Although U.S. lawmakers are waging a high stakes battle over how much the government can borrow, analysts told CNBC that a debt ceiling showdown may not have a cataclysmic effect on markets.

Barely two weeks after Washington narrowly steered the economy away from the "fiscal cliff" — mainly by postponing a resolution until March — some investors are already becoming rattled by the prospect of a new battle over the debt limit.

Still, a few analysts believe those concerns might be premature. On CNBC's "Futures Now," they expressed optimism that the issue can either be resolved, or that the U.S. can at least avoid defaulting on its obligations.

Sean Egan, whose ratings firm Egan-Jones first lowered the U.S.'s pristine "AAA" credit rating in July 2011 and then further downgraded the country to "AA" last April, told CNBC on Tuesday another downgrade is unlikely.

"Simply not raising the debt ceiling doesn't translate into a default," Egan told "Futures Now". He said that while the Treasury Department might not have enough money to pay all of its obligations, it can pay the interest on its loans. (Watch the full interview here)

Technically, the U.S. reached its $16.4 trillion debt ceiling on December 31, and is now resorting to accountng gimmicks to keep paying the government's bills.

According to the Treasury Department, though, the government is on track to breach its borrowing limit by mid-February. If Congress does not vote to increase that ceiling, the U.S. could default on its debt, threatening its credit rating and a possible government shutdown.

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While Egan stopped short of calling debt ceiling concerns overblown, he said the issue was "manageable" even in the face of political paralysis.

"I think we'll have a lot of drama, but ultimately, we're going to work through it," Egan said.

David Rosenberg, chief economist with Gluskin Sheff, shared a similar view.

I think that there's a general belief that although there's a lot of noise around this issue...we're going to get through it," said Rosenberg, who correctly predicted the economy's sluggish pace last year.

"I think the risk for the market [is] not so much about what it does to earnings, it's about what it does to market confidence." (Click to watch the full interview)

Fiscal Cliff Earnings Impact: Top Economist
Can earnings lift stocks further? Markets come off the 2nd-best-ever week for inflows into stock funds. The markets next move, with David Rosenberg, Gluskin Sheff chief economist, CNBC's Jackie DeAngelis and the Futures Now Traders, Rich Ilczyszyn at the CME and Anthony Grisanti at the Nymex.

Still, other market participants don't predict such a rosy scenario. Professional trader Rich Ilczyszn said the debt ceiling will be a headwind for stocks. Until there is some clarity on the situation, Ilczyszyn said he plans to hedge.

If recent events are any indication, though, Congress and the White House do not appear to be closer to bridging the yawning political divide.

On Monday, President Barack Obama rejected any negotiations with Republicans over raising the U.S. debt ceiling, accusing his opponents of trying to extract a ransom for not ruining the economy in the latest fiscal fight.

At a White House news conference called to promote his position on the budget, Obama vowed not to trade cuts in government spending sought by Republicans in exchange for raising the borrowing limit. (Read More: Top Democrats Urge Obama to Weigh Unilateral Debt Hike)

Obama has tangled repeatedly with Congress over budget and spending issues, and on Monday he said Republicans would bear the responsibility for the consequences of a default. Meanwhile, some Congressional Republicans have offered the White House an olive branch.

(Read More: Obama's 'Crazy Spending' Must Be Stopped: Norquist)

"I wish the president would stop campaigning and come over to the Hill and have a conversation with us," Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., told CNBC on Tuesday. "House Republicans are prepared to work with this administration [and] Democrats in the Senate to solve the problem, which is our out-of-control, wasteful Washington spending and as long as we can put this nation back on firm financial footing, there should not be a problem here." (Watch the full interview here)

Jenkins, a member of the member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, called on President Obama and Senate Democrats to present a budget that would balance the U.S.'s overwhelmingly national deficit.

"We have to take the blank checks away from Washington and cut up the credit card and demonstrate to the American people that we manage our finances the way that they do around their kitchen table," the lawmaker said. "They prepare a budget, they don't spend more money than they take in and so long as Washington begins to operate the way the hardworking American people do, then I will be on board," she added.

—Reuters contributed to this report

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