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May 15, 2011
Druckenmiller on the Debt Ceiling
So who's crazy now? For the past several months, conservatives who've argued against raising the national debt ceiling without major spending cuts have been cast as dangerous and crazy by establishment leaders such as Treasury Secretary Geithner. Now a top-flight investor has jumped onto the Boehner bus. In a detailed interview with the Wall Street Journal, legendary investor Stanley Druckenmiller argues that the truly responsible thing is to get federal spending under control.
Mr. Druckenmiller says that markets know the difference between a default in which a country will not repay its debts and a technical default, in which investors may have to wait a short period for a particular interest payment. Under the second scenario, he doubts that investors such as theChinese government would sell their Treasury debt and take losses on the way out-"because I'll guarantee you people like me will buy it immediately." The history Druckenmiller points to is the bond market rally in 1995, when House Republicans shut down the government. During that period, he says he made a fortune going long on U.S. Treasuries. Druckenmiller is considered one of the foremost experts on currencies and government debt markets. The Journal reports that he is credited with orchestrating George Soros's vastly profitable short of the British pound in 1992. Perhaps Mr. Boehner and the stubborn Tea Party conservatives are really the "smartest guys in the room." One can only hope.
Now suppose, Mr. Druckenmiller adds, that he's wrong. If the market implodes on day two of the technical default, Mr. Obama and Congress would be motivated to finally come to agreement. But he doesn't expect such market chaos. "My guess is that the bond market would rally as long as it believed the ultimate outcome was going to be genuine entitlement reform-that we wouldn't even have to find out about a meltdown because it wouldn't happen. And I have some history on my side here."