Economy Watch: No Debt-Ceiling Debt Yet

A debt-ceiling and shutdown deal seemed possible on Friday, but things seemed to go retrograde over the weekend.

A debt-ceiling and shutdown deal seemed possible on Friday, but things seemed to go retrograde over the weekend with reports of deals offered, deals rejected, more talking, House members saying this, Senators saying that, President Obama saying some other thing and a lot more speculation. As of Sunday night, no deal had been finalized, and the Senate—which was in session on Sunday (a rare event) was reported to be off until Monday afternoon.

The shutdown doesn’t have a deadline, but reports are already filtering in that a non-functioning federal government is costing businesses money. Warnings were coming from other sources, too, such as the Comptroller of California, who said that the state is on track to meet its own budget projections, but that “decisions or a stalemate in Washington related to defense outlays, research funds, Medicare, and other federal programs could ripple back to California in major ways.”

The default deadline is generally acknowledged to be this Thursday. Congress is scheduled for a recess this week, starting after the Columbus Day holiday, and Congress seldom misses one of those. So it’s possible that whatever deal emerges will do so in time for Congress to recess starting on Tuesday.

Consumer sentiment slips

The University of Michigan and Reuters reported on Friday that consumer sentiment is down for mid-October, but perhaps not as much as expected, considering the prospect of default by the U.S. government. Sentiment slipped to 75.2 in the mid-month October reading, compared with 77.5 for final September and 76.8 for mid-month September.

On the other hand, the expectation component of consumer sentiment dropped quite a bit more in early October, from 67.8 at the end of September to 63.9 in mid-October. Perhaps there’s some apprehension about the situation in Washington creeping into consumer sentiment. At 67.8, the end of September actually saw an uptick in expectations, since the reading was 67.2 in mid-month September.

Consumers still expect inflation to be moderate, according to the latest U of M report. The university surveys 500 U.S. households on their attitudes about financial matters, and published the results at mid-month and the end of each month.

The data black hole grows

More missing data is possible this week. The government would ordinarily report on the Consumer Price Index and housing starts, but that might not happen on time, even if the government shutdown ends. On the other hand, there will be some privately generated reports—such the NAHB homebuilder survey—and some data from the Federal Reserve.

Wall Street was still optimistic on Friday (but not as much as the day before), with the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 111.04 points, or 0.73 percent. The S&P 500 gained 0.63 percent and the Nasdaq advanced 0.83 percent. Policymakers will find out on Monday just what investors think of the inconclusive nature of the weekend’s talks.