Nat Kellogg, CFA
President, Director of Manager Search
This week’s chart looks at the CBO’s updated fiscal projections for the U.S. federal government published on May 14th (the red line on this chart is the updated deficit/GDP estimate). These projections are an update from the last set of projections made in February (gray line) and include the full effect of the tax increases implemented on January 1, 2013 and the budget cuts mandated by sequestration, which began on March 1st. These updated projections show a $642 billion drop in the expected federal budget deficit in 2013, and over a $6 trillion reduction in the expected deficit over the next decade. The bars on this chart show the projected improvement in the deficit (higher revenue or lower expenditures) compared to the previous projections. Interestingly, a large part of the improvement in 2013 is driven by payments to the U.S. Treasury from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which have recently returned to profitability after being taken over by the federal government during the credit crisis. While the deficit-to-GDP ratio is now expected to shrink substantially over the next few years, the CBO projections still show the U.S. federal government running a structural deficit of 3%-4% of GDP indefinitely. This is because the recent improvement in the deficit has been driven by a cyclical recovery in the U.S. economy and fiscal austerity, but the long term problem of entitlements remains unsolved. These updated projections are clearly good news for the economy and the market in the near term, but until the long term structural deficits are addressed, investors are unlikely to view the U.S. as back to full fiscal health.
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