BofA Merrill Lynch analysts expect another US debt downgrade
The congressional super committee charged with cutting another $1.5 trillion from the federal deficit is likely to fail, which could prompt another ratings agency to downgrade the U.S. credit rating by year-end. S&P already downgraded the nation's triple-A credit rating over the summer after political wrangling over the debt ceiling sparked fears that the situation among lawmakers would create constant strife, delaying the ability for the nation to deal with its economic crisis. Ethan Harris, an economist with Bank of America Merrill Lynch, suggested the political situation remains an ongoing concern in his research note. "The not-so-super deficit commission is very unlikely to come up with a credible deficit-reduction plan," Harris wrote. "The committee is more divided than the overall Congress. Since the fall-back plan is sharp cuts in discretionary spending, the whole point of the committee is to put taxes and entitlements on the table. However, all the Republican members have signed the Norquist 'no taxes' pledge and with taxes off the table it is hard to imagine the liberal Democrats on the committee agreeing to significant entitlement cuts. The credit ratings agencies have strongly suggested that further rating cuts are likely if Congress does not come up with a credible long-run plan. Hence, we expect at least one credit downgrade in late November or early December when the super committee crashes." Harris expects the instability to last through the 2012 election cycle. "As we have noted before, policymakers have left three time bombs for after the election — a major spending cut, a major tax increase and another debt-ceiling decision. All of these bombs must be defused in a lame duck session of Congress. We expect very weak growth in the second half of 2012 and into early 2013," he wrote. Write to Kerri Panchuk.