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Worried About the Debt Ceiling? “You Can’t Be Conservative Enough,” WisdomTree CEO Says

Aaron Task
Daily Ticker

Stocks were heading lower Wednesday morning but, to date, investors have been pretty blasé about the whole debt ceiling debate.

"The markets are pretty calm and it looks like they expect something to get done," says Jonathan Steinberg, CEO of WisdomTree Investments (WETF). "It doesn't seem there is a panic on the side of investors [and] ETFs gives you early indication of sentiment."

Steinberg, whose firm has $13.5 billion in ETF assets under management, says investors continue to diversify out of dollars and into emerging markets and gold. "[But] it's not so much about the debt ceiling but these extraordinarily low interest rates," he says. "Everyone is looking for alternative sources of income."

In fact, there is so little panic among investors that Steinberg notes there's been a pickup in inflows into U.S. equity and fixed-income ETFs in recent weeks.

Like most observers, Steinberg chalks up the political drama to "posturing" and predicts the debt ceiling "will get taken care of shortly."

But "if you're really concerned that there's going to be no deal, you can't be conservative enough," he says. "This is unprecedented territory. You [should] try to get out of the market if you're really concerned. Wait until mid-August and see what happens."

Of course, how you choose to react (or not) to the debt-ceiling debate is a matter of personal choice and risk tolerance, and clearly there's still a chance a deal will be struck prior to Aug. 2, even if just to temporarily raise the debt ceiling.

Then again, WisdomTree's chairman Michael Steinhardt told Bloomberg TV his biggest speculative bet right now is shorting the 2-year Treasury. "We are up to our knees in midgets," the legendary investor said of Washington.

The reality is nobody really knows how a U.S. downgrade or technical default will play out, which has me thinking of the old market saw: It's better to be out of the market wishing you were in, then in the market wishing you were out.

Aaron Task is the host of The Daily Ticker. You can follow him on Twitter at @atask or email him at altask@yahoo.com

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