The US government is on the brink of its 22nd shutdown, if Congress is unable to reach a funding deal by Sept. 30, 2023. A US government shutdown can have far-reaching consequences across various sectors, including financial markets. This article takes a closer look at the mechanics of a government shutdown and its impact.
Understanding the US Government Shutdown
A government shutdown occurs when the US Congress cannot agree on and pass appropriations bills that allocate funds for various government agencies and programs. Without an approved budget, these agencies and programs are unable to operate legally. As a result, a considerable portion of the federal government grinds to a halt.
What Happens During a Government Shutdown?
During a government shutdown, several significant changes occur:
- Federal Employees Furloughed: Many federal employees are placed on furlough, meaning they are temporarily laid off. This includes non-essential personnel, such as park rangers and museum staff.
- Essential Services Continue: Essential services that ensure public safety and national security, such as the military, law enforcement, and border security, continue to operate. Employees in these roles are considered “excepted.”
- National Parks and Museums Close: National parks, museums, and monuments often close during a shutdown, impacting tourism and local economies.
- Delayed Government Services: Services like visa processing, federal tax return processing, and small business loan applications may experience delays.
- Federal Contractors Affected: Contractors working with the government may face project delays and financial difficulties.
Impact on Financial Markets
Government shutdowns can have significant implications for financial markets. Here’s how they typically affect various aspects:
- Stock Market Volatility: Financial markets, including the stock market, can experience increased volatility during a shutdown due to uncertainty about its duration and economic consequences. Investors may become risk-averse, causing market fluctuations.
- Economic Uncertainty: A prolonged shutdown can hinder economic growth and raise concerns about the nation’s fiscal health. For instance, the next monthly employment report due on Oct. 6 and the CPI report due on Oct. 12 could be delayed by a government shutdown. This leaves policy makers, investors and businesses without data needed to make key decisions.This uncertainty can negatively impact market performance.
- Consumer Confidence: Shutdowns can erode consumer confidence, affecting spending patterns and overall economic activity. This can, in turn, impact corporate earnings and stock prices.
- Government Bonds: The prices of US government bonds, such as Treasury bills, can fluctuate during a shutdown. Investors may seek the safety of these assets, causing yields to drop.
The Race to Avert a Government Shutdown 2023
According to reports, Senate leaders are working on a stopgap spending bill to avert a government shutdown, requiring unanimous agreement for swift action and potential House Democrat votes. Despite a prior bipartisan debt limit agreement, hard-line House conservatives pushed for deeper spending cuts, leading to the current impasse. House Republicans proposed funding bills with conservative cuts but won’t prevent a shutdown. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer initiated a legislative vehicle for a stopgap bill. Whether it gains enough bipartisan support remains uncertain.
A US government shutdown is a complex event with significant implications for essential services, the economy, and financial markets. While it primarily affects government employees and services, its indirect consequences resonate throughout the nation’s economic landscape. Investors and market participants closely monitor the situation, as a prolonged shutdown can lead to increased market volatility and economic uncertainty.