The eventual size of the Democratic Party’s fiscal policy legislation – for taxes and for spending – will likely impact the bond market as well as the policy landscape.
—– Transcript —–
Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I’m Michael Zezas, Head of Public Policy Research and Municipal Strategy for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I’ll be talking about the intersection between US public policy and financial markets. It’s Wednesday, September 29th at 1:00 p.m. in New York.
It’s shaping up to be one of the most consequential legislative weeks on record in the US. At stake is the size and fate of Democrats’ fiscal policy ambitions, specifically their goals of a major tax increase to fund a substantial expansion of infrastructure spending and the social safety net. But intraparty disagreements on the content of these efforts have left investors wondering: what will the final package do to the U.S. fiscal outlook and, therefore, the trajectory for bond yields? Will the Democrats go big, keeping yields moving higher, or go small, potentially meaning the worst of the recent increase in bond yields is behind us?
Our current thinking is that the Democrats eventually end up going big. Why? Because neither of the two legislative vehicles they’re considering are possible without the other – they’re linked. Moderates, particularly in the Senate, may be happy with approving the smaller bipartisan infrastructure framework, or BIF. But progressives don’t appear content with just this achievement and continue to argue they’ll withhold their votes on the BIF until the whole of the party endorses a specific plan for the bigger budget reconciliation bill. This de facto linking of the two bills may mean that Democrats’ planned votes this week to pass the BIF gets delayed, but it keeps the party on track for what we think would be a combined increase in spending of over $3T over 10 years, adding upwards of $1T to the deficit over the first five years. That would help keep support under the economic recovery and the upward trajectory of bond yields over the medium term. It could also mean equity markets are choppy in the near term as they digest a meaningful incoming tax hike.
But breaking that link and going small is something we have to consider too. If progressives give in and vote for the BIF without a dependable agreement on reconciliation, the moderates will be in the driver’s seat on the rest of the negotiation – and already key moderate Democratic leaders have said they’d delay the timing and dilute the size of the reconciliation bill. In that case, we’d substantially mark down our expectations for the impact to deficits, as well as for the scope of tax hikes. For this outcome to become more likely, look for a public signal from the White House to persuade progressives to vote for the BIF by explicitly endorsing the strategy of voting on it before reconciliation is agreed to.
We hope this can be a guide to track how the situation develops over the next few days. And we’ll of course be paying close attention and be back next week to size it all up again.
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