government shutdown?

In musing the other day about the resilience of the US stock market, I neglected to mention what I regard as the most worrying current domestic economic development–the potential shutdown of the Federal government that is set to begin in two days, as a small group of Republican representatives renege on a deal to avoid this that they’d agreed to a number of weeks ago.

I’ve been told–I haven’t checked this myself–that in the past Wall Street has tended to ignore short interruptions of government services, saving its potential panicking for ones that drag on for more than a couple of weeks. But there’s certainly nothing that I can see in current market action that indicates investors are expressing alarm over the potential loss of federal government services next week.

I don’t get what’s going on–my thought is that there’s enough other possible negatives in the air that any new one could have outsized negative consequences–but the market remains much stronger than I’d expected.

It seems to me, though, that the current market is all about the earnings of individual stocks instead of about large-scale macroeconomic themes–valuation + earnings surprise rather than theme or concept. This in itself is a defensive move by the market, shrinking its time horizon over the past couple of months from dreams of what might be in, say, 3/5 years (the essence of a bull market) to the nuts and bolts of what’s happening with reported earnings right now. Airlines and cruise ships have been hit especially hard during this process, which may be worries about what the loss of air traffic controllers could do.

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