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Investments

US shutdown could spill over to Europe

Japanese investors already selling record amounts of American paper

October 14, 2013
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Columbus Day is a conceptual holiday at best. Christopher Columbus probably didn't land today, and he was probably not the first European to sail to America.

The purpose of Columbus' journey was never fulfilled, of course, but he did set in motion the series of events that would eventually lead to the current state of affairs.

Columbus Day was reportedly declared a Federal Holiday during the Great Depression, perhaps as some relief to the struggling masses.  

Today, the Europeans are worried about what we are sending back. In short, it's more bad economic waves.

The United States Treasury market is the largest and most liquid bond market. But the government shutdown is threatening that investor comfort level. A Société Générale note from Paris-based credit market strategists Patrick Legland and Daniel Fermon describes the complacency of the markets, and indicates the frustration that the political structure of the United States is not robust enough to prevent this economic standstill.

Markets may be in wait-and-see mode, but investors aren't going to sit around forever. SocGen reported that Japanese investors are selling Treasurys at a rate not seen since 2001.

This, and other credit impacts from the shutdown, is costing the GDP upwards to 0.25% per week, they estimate. Further, the eurozone recovery is not without its own woes and the double impact of the shutdown is beginning to materialize.

Prolonged economic slowdown in the US would endanger the eurozone recovery — growth is already expected to be below 1%.

But there are some bright spots. There is a feeling that resolution to the shutdown is progressing. It's better than nothing at all. Legland and Fermon called the likely compromise "dirty," where the debt ceiling gets raised, but the shutdown continues.

"Markets have welcomed the news of a potential deal, but the rally could be short-lived as the extension of the debt ceiling would only be put off temporarily," they write. "As the threat of the debt ceiling remains and the government shutdown is continuing, equity volatility will return in the coming weeks."

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