Market Extra: Why investors are starting to pay attention to the government shutdown
The partial government shutdown is now setting records, and investors might not be able to ignore it for much longer, analysts said.
“Two key risks that we highlighted in the past (Fed’s monetary policy and trade war) have subsided, but new risks have emerged: U.S. government shutdown and signs of additional slowdown outside the U.S.,” wrote Marko Kolanovic, global head of quantitative and derivatives strategy at JPMorgan, in a Wednesday note.
Read: The government shutdown has become the longest on record
History shows past shutdowns have had a negligible impact on stocks. So far, that’s been the case with the partial shutdown that began on Dec. 21 and entered its 26th day on Wednesday with no end in sight with congressional Democrats and President Donald Trump at an impasse over his demand for funding for a $ 5.3 billion border wall. The closure has far exceeded the prior record, a 21-day shutdown during the Clinton administration that began in December 1995.
Read: Trump on conference call with supporters: ‘We’ll be out [on shutdown] for a long time’
Since Dec. 21, the S&P 500 SPX, +1.32% rallied 8% through Tuesday’s close as stocks bounced back from a December selloff that took the index below 2,400 on Christmas Eve before giving way to a rebound that saw the large-cap index and the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +1.38% exit correction territory.
The rebound has been attributed in part to a softer tone from the Federal Reserve when it comes to future rate increases, efforts by China to stimulate its economy, and a relative lack of negative news surrounding the U.S.-China trade spat. But analysts and others have begun to warn that the shutdown could begin to have a negative economic impact that poses to be a drag on the market.
“Bad things come in threes, or so goes the old saying, and the government shutdown looks like the third in a series of a policy missteps that have undermined the expansion and pushed the probability of a recession to the highest level since early 2007,” said Steven Blitz, chief U.S. economist at TS Lombard, in a Wednesday note, citing New York Federal Reserve Bank data.
The other missteps include the trade battle with China, which has undercut the benefits of the corporate tax cuts, and the Federal Reserve’s belief that “the effect on term yields from the pace of [its balance-sheet reduction] was somehow immune to a doubling of the budget deficit,” he said.
Blitz expects the U.S. and China will reach a lasting truce, the Fed will recalibrate the pace of its balance-sheet runoff and the government, of course, will reopen. “What matters is the timing of these developments in determining how quickly markets respond before greater damage is done to the economy,” he said.
Others have questioned whether the shutdown itself would be enough to affect underlying economic trends.
The White House has reportedly doubled its own estimate of the shutdown’s impact on economic growth, news reports said Tuesday, forecasting it would trim first-quarter gross domestic product by 0.5 percentage points if it lasts through January.
The White House’s estimates also don’t allow for any negative impact through business and consumer confidence in general, which is “another source of downside risk,” noted Jim O’Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics. However, there is so far little evidence that market sentiment has suffered so far, he said, in a note.
Read: Kudlow must explain to Trump that shutdown is hurting economist, says strategist
The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday reported that some senior White House officials are privately advising Trump to find a way to end the shutdown. The officials are worried that the president hasn’t realized the severity of 800,000 federal workers missing paychecks, one official told the newspaper.
Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics, estimated the shutdown would shave 0.2 percentage points off first-quarter GDP if it lasts through January, which would bring the firm’s GDP tracker down to 1.9% annualized growth. If it lasts through the end of March, it would shave off 0.6 percentage point, slowing the pace of growth to 1.5%, he said.
JPMorgan Chase Chief Executive Jamie Dimon, who’s been upbeat on the U.S. economy, warned Tuesday that the partial shutdown could wipe out growth if it lasts the entire quarter.
Meanwhile, the shutdown has deprived traders, economists and policy makers of at least 10 key government data releases so far, including figures related to housing, trade and consumer spending, Daco said, adding that even when the government reopens, it will likely take months to return to a normal schedule.
“If anything, this lack of data will favor an even-more cautious approach from the Fed when it comes to normalizing monetary policy. This is particularly true since the latest inflation data (which comes from the funded Bureau of Labor Statistics) shows no imminent risk of an outbreak,” he said.