US Daily Cash Deficit 3/10/2016

The US Daily Cash Deficit for Thursday 3/10/2016 was $5.9B bringing the March 2016 deficit through 10 days to $92B.

2016-03-10-2016 USDD

Revenue looks down big….you may recall that last March received about $35B of additional revenue thanks to the FCC wireless spectrum auction. There is another one planned in 2016 at the end of the month, but it is unlikely the cash will be in hand until a few months after that. I saw one article that forecasted this auction will be even larger….in the $60B ballpark….guess we’ll just have to wait and see. Regardless, March 2016 is likely to come up short of last year by a large margin unless Treasury can pull a $35B rabbit out of their hat. In fact, without that FCC revenue, 2016 is currently down for the full year, but by less that $35B so there is at least some baseline growth for now. Outlays, with timing mostly flushed out are back over 2015 levels despite the ~35B YOY timing…suggesting healthy baseline growth here as well. When we kicked off the year, I assumed we would see 3% growth in both revenue and outlays. For now…it is looking like revenue is running a little under this and outlays are a little over. That’s not exactly a recipe for budgetary success, but it’s been way worse. Stay tuned…April could get interesting.

US Cash Deficit February 2016

The US Cash Deficit for February 2016 came in at $226B, topping last February’s $211B deficit and wiping out the January surplus leaving 2016 through 2 months with a 174B deficit.

2016-02-29-2016 USDD

Revenue:

Revenues were up$26B, good for +21% YOY vs 2015….not bad, but for the most part we can thank leap year and February tax refunds. I treat refunds as negative revenue rather than an outlay, so the $125B of refunds that went out to individuals in February pulled down total revenues to $149B, while an average month is closer to $300B. Leap year gave 2016 an extra day vs 2016, and Monday 2/29/2016 did not dissapoint, with a solid $23B of extra revenue. Refunds were more or less in line with last year, but having the small revenue base made the +21% possible.  With only 2 months. this also pulled the YTD up to +10%. So yes…the numbers look good, but there is a good chance it is all timing and one offs….and that the reality is we are still in the ballpark of +3%….we should have a much better idea by the end of April.

Outlays:

For the month, outlays were up$40B but that is primarily just last month’s timing rolling off. For the year, we are still under 2015, but that is due to the January 2016 payments that went out in December 2015, permanently pushing 2015 outlays up and 2016 down by ~$30B-$40B. We look to be burning through that benefit at a rate consistent with my estimate of ~+3% growth for the year, but it will take a few more months for that trend to solidify(if it exists).

Deficit:

Thanks to timing and leap year, the deficit is $65B under where it was last year through 2 months. Even though it doesn’t look particularly solid at this point, improvement is improvement…we’ll gladly take it….just don’t get your hopes up yet.

Summary:

Through 2 months, the headline numbers look pretty good, but I am a bit worried about revenues…specifically federal tax deposits which are the largest consistent revenue source in the budget. Through 2/28…they were up just 0.2% for the year compared to +4% last year. Thanks to a big leap day, the year is at +6%, but I’m not sure it will last long. If baseline revenue growth is only 0.2%….it could mean trouble is brewing.

Looking forward, refund season marches on, so we will probably have a March deficit in excess of $60B before hitting April, which will likely have a surplus in the $150-$200B range.

US Daily Cash Deficit 2/24/2016

The US Daily Cash Deficit for Wednesday 2/24/2016 was $22B, bringing the February cash deficit to $217B with 3 business days remaining in the month.

2016-02-24-2016 USDD

So far it looks like a pretty normal February…refunds are pouring out and the deficit is headed toward $200B+. We still have timing affecting outlays, though some of this will equalize at the end of the month.

January 2016 Cash Surplus

The US Daily Cash Surplus for January 2016 came in at $52B beating January 2015’s $28B deficit by a whopping $80B. However, don’t break out the party hats just yet…There were 3 large timing events that accounted for most of the beat.

2016-01-31 USDD

Revenues:

At first glance, revenues were up $18B good for a 5.7% YOY gain. Last January about $10B of refunds went out at the end of the month, and since I account for refunds as negative revenue, it reduced reported revenue by that amount. In 2016, those early tax refunds did not go out in January…if we back that benefit out, the YOY gain is $10B lower, good for a 2.5% gain. Still not too shabby considering there was one less business day…my baseline was 3% revenue and spending growth, so no shockers yet. In theory…January’s gain will be offset in February as refunds simply slide right a week or so…assuming everything else stays more or less the same…so look for weak(er) February revenues.

Outlays:

Outlays show an apparent $61B drop…but it turns out it is almost all timing. First up, a lot of payments that would have been due in early January were pulled into December due to the timing of the weekend/holiday. This left January 2016 ~$30 short since this did not happen in 2015. Second, January 2015 had extra cost as payments due in February were pulled forward due to the timing of the weekend…lets call that $30B as well. So at the end of the day, Jan 2015 had $30B of extra cost, and January 2016 is $30B short…causing an apparent $60B delta, when the truth is, everything was more or less the same. I will note that this aside, some cost categories including defense vendors, medicaid, and education were either down or up less than I expected. However, it was just one short, and timing tainted month…I’ll give it a few more before I get excited about any of those misses.

Surplus:

The three timing events noted above combined to give us our first January surplus since 2007….ahhh…the good ‘ol days!! Enjoy it while it lasts…February is refund month so we probably have a $200B+ deficit coming up

Summary:

Even taking into account timing, it was a decent start to 2016. with moderate revenue growth and outlays looking about flat….for now. The next 3 months should be exciting (as far as this topic goes anyway) as refunds pour out, and 2015 taxes pour in. As always….Stay Tuned!!

December 2015 Cash Deficit

The US Daily Cash Deficit for December 2015 was $3B bringing the 2015 full year deficit to $539B.

2015-12-31 USDD_B

Revenue:

Revenue was an interesting story this month ending up at a solid but unremarkable 3.6% gain. However, Looking at the details, we had withheld taxes at +2.9%, corporate taxes down 9.4%, “other” reciepts down 36.4%, and GSE dividends down 68%, all offset by our good buddies at the Federal Reserve, whose earnings went up from $9.3B last year to $29.3B this year.  Historically, the Federal Reserve makes a cash payment to treasury every Wednesday in the ballpark of $1.5B-$2.0B. Months that have 4 Wednesdays will typically have $7B-$8B of revenues from the Federal Reserve, months with 5 will be closer to $9B. So I was a bit surprised Monday 12/28/2015, when I saw a $19B payment from the Federal Reserve spiking revenue. The recently released Monthly Budget review provides some insight. Apparently the FAST  Act(Fixing Americas Surface Transportation) signed into law in early December has a few revenue provisions including selling oil from the strategic petroleum reserve, and it sounds like forcing the Federal Reserve to pay fewer dividends to it’s member banks and therefore submit more of their surplus to Treasury. I can’t argue with that, though I’m not yet sure what magnitude of increase we can expect going forward.  An extra $20B per month would be $240B annually, which would be a nearly 7% baseline increase for 2016 vs 2015…all else equal. That sounds way too high though, my guess would be that this December $20 payment was a one time catch up or something… we’ll find out over the coming months.

Moving on, without the extra $20B from the Federal Reserve, revenues would have been down, despite having an extra business day, which is never a good sign. October was also negative, so if we see another negative in January it will probably be time to start getting a bit concerned.  For the full year, 2015 Revenues landed at  $3.497 Trillion, up $195B and 5.9%. Not too shabby, even though nearly all of the gains were in the first 4 months, followed by 8 months of mediocrity.

Outlays:

Outlays were up $31B and 9%, primarily on a timing event I missed in my forecasting that pulled $23.4B of SS payments due 1/3/2016 to 12/31/2015 due to the weekend. For the full year, outlays were up $126B and 3.2% vs. 2014. If we back out the timing event, we get a 2.6% YOY gain.

Deficit:

For the full year, we had a $68B improvement in the cash deficit pulling it down from $607B in 2014 to $539B to close out 2015. This marks the sixth year in a row of continuous improvement over 2009’s disastrous $1.611T cash deficit.

Summary:

The top line of a $3B deficit wasn’t terrible, but the key takeaway from December is that revenues look to be in trouble. January will give us a better idea if this is the case, and we should know for sure by the end of tax season in April. For now, I’m going to guess that for 2016, revenues and outlays will both be up ~3%, and the cash deficit will stay in the ballpark of $500B.