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TheStreet Open House

How to Trade a U.S. Debt Downgrade

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- On March 28, after a week that saw the Dow Jones Industrial Average jump 3%, money manager Jeffrey Sica predicted that the borrowing and spending by the U.S. would prompt a downgrade of U.S. debt. Four months later, it appears that gloomy prediction will come true.

Even if a short-term compromise on the debt ceiling is reached, Sica is bracing for a downgrade of U.S. debt by credit ratings agencies by making what some have called unpatriotic bets: short U.S. Treasuries, short the U.S. dollar, move to higher levels of cash and buy commodities like oil, silver and gold. Sica is president and chief investment officer of Morristown, N.J.-based Sica Wealth Management, a firm with about $1 billion in assets under management.

Standard & Poor's warned last month that it would downgrade the triple-A rating of U.S. debt if significant progress were not made in dealing with a ballooning deficit. The credit ratings agency said the U.S. would need to cobble together a plan that would lead to $4 trillion in savings, a task that appears impossible to accomplish with partisanship in Congress.

Even now, proposed deals by House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) promise less than $3 trillion in spending cuts. With a Treasury-imposed deadline of Aug. 2 to raise the debt ceiling, investors have lost faith that Congress can reach a deal that will satisfy S&P analysts. Over the last five trading sessions, the Dow has dropped 3%.

"In March, I looked at what a colossal failure our government had been at stimulating the economy, and I knew that there was no way these oppositional views would come together," Sica says. "Based on the divisive views from the two parties in Congress, you knew it was going to become an issue. The political divide was becoming extremely evident back in March. Now here we are at the precipice, and it's gotten even more divisive."

Sica, who is also a former managing director for Wells Fargo, argues that the debt ceiling debate is being handled as a political issue when it's really an economic issue.

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