Wanted: Debt default gloom and doom squad
Recapping the day's news and newsmakers through the lens of CNBC.
Forced to bet, a smart gambler would say there will be no debt-ceiling default when the deadline arrives Oct. 17, because the implications are so horrid Congress won't let that happen. But some experts are starting to worry about an inadvertent default caused by a stumble or mistake as Congress treads closer to the brink. Something like that did happen in 1979. Making a default more likely, members of Congress might not get enough pressure to bargain because voters and business leaders just don't believe a default will occur. Growing worries are reflected in a sharp rise in Treasury bill yields, as many investors shun short-term bonds like one-month Treasuries. A brief interruption in bond earnings would be especially hard on securities maturing soon.
"Almost bizarrely, the market's reaction—or lack of one in this case—may actually contribute to an outcome everyone has been railing against."—CNBC's Andrew Ross Sorkin
"The reason financial markets have been relatively calm is that nobody believes the U.S. will default on its debt. But it is interesting that the one-month U.S. Treasury bill has started to react to that and that the yield has shot up quite sharply over the past couple of weeks."—Kelvin Tay, regional CIO for southern Asia-Pacific at UBS Wealth Management
There goes Uncle Sam picking winners and losers, again
How would the government handle a default crisis? One way, which seems sensible, would be to set priorities, just as any business manager would do when cash is short. Paying interest on Treasuries ahead of other obligations, for instance, might help calm debt holders. But leaders of the top banks have warned Washington that picking winners and losers would create huge uncertainty, driving up borrowing costs and disrupting financial markets.
Levittown's Last Breath
For years consumer-oriented businesses have prized suburbanites, who are wealthier than many city dwellers. But real estate mogul Sam Zell says young, upwardly mobile folks now prefer to stay in the cities longer, even forever—and even after the kids come. In recent years, builders have found McMansions in the outer 'burbs in less demand, but that could have been due to temporary penny pinching. Zell, however, thinks the trend has deeper, more long-term causes, like a desire for a more exciting city lifestyle. Still, any back-to-the-city trend may be hampered by the perception that suburban schools are better.
"You're drawing all the young people in America to these 24/7 cities. The last thing they want to do is live in the suburbs."—Real estate investor Sam Zell
The hardest job in the world
Think fast: what's harder, raising kids or working? It turns out that executives who think they are tough taskmasters are nothing compared to toddlers and teens, according to a Pew Research Center study of parenting pressure. Parents rated only 5 percent of their work as "very tiring," compared to 12 percent of the time they spent raising children. Still, parents—fathers as well as mothers—overwhelmingly rated parenting as more rewarding than work. Of course, parents loyal to their kids aren't likely to say otherwise.
Not exactly Wal-Mart, but ...
In recent months, a turnaround at J.C. Penney has seemed all but impossible, as one piece of bad news followed another. But the retailer reported an improvement in same-store sales in September over August. Though sales still trailed the year-earlier figure, Penney's noted strengthening in a number of key areas, such as women's apparel.
—By Jeff Brown, Special to CNBC.com