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Debt-Ceiling Brink Has Speed Traders Drooling

Debt-Ceiling Brink Has Speed Traders Drooling
Photograph by John Rensten/Getty Images

So the government’s shut down, and who knows how long it’ll be until it reopens? The real calamity is still a couple of weeks away: On Oct. 17, the Treasury Department will exhaust its borrowing limit. Unless Congress votes to raise the debt ceiling, the U.S. will default on its debt for the first time ever.

While investors are still yawning over another case of Congress turning a basic responsibility into a protracted hostage negotiation, the closer we get to a default, the more panicky the markets will get. There are lots of ways investors can try to take advantage of market chaos—using options and buying inverse indexes, for example—but there’s one sure-fire way to make money when things get hairy: speed. No one likes government-orchestrated chaos like high-frequency traders do.