US govt shutdown hurting markets, no agreement in sight yet

The partial US government shutdown entered its fourth day on Tuesday after leading to heavy losses in the securities markets and without any agreement in sight yet regarding the funds US President Donald Trump is demanding to build portions of his much-touted wall along the border with Mexico.

The Senate, which in this situation is taking the initiative in the budget talks, will meet on Thursday at 4 p.m. to try and resolve the budget impasse, but neither the White House nor the Democratic opposition are disposed to give ground, thus creating a scenario in which the shutdown could last into January.

“I can’t tell you when the government is going to be open. I can tell you it’s not going to be open until we have a wall, a fence, whatever they would like to call it,” Trump said on Christmas Day in the Oval Office after talking with US troops on the telephone, reports Efe.

The president said that such a wall would be a barrier against illegal immigrants and drugs, and he added that his administration would not allow people trafficking across that border to continue.

Trump once again insisted that Congress must include $5 billion for the wall in its budget but Democrats continue to refuse to do that and, for now, they are only ready to provide $1.3 billion for assorted border security measures, although with restrictions preventing the construction of an actual “wall,” which they regard as anathema and against American values.

The leaders of the Democrats in Congress, Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, on Monday said that agreement on the matter is difficult because the White House is not showing a unified position regarding what Trump would or would not accept.

The New York Stock Exchange is not open on Christmas Day, but the Tokyo and Shanghai stock markets suffered from the sharp plunge in the US markets on Christmas Eve.

The Dow Jones, Wall Street’s benchmark indicator, lost more than 650 points on Monday, while the S&P500 index, which includes the 500 top publicly-traded companies in the US, fell for the fourth consecutive session.

According to analysts, the markets reacted badly to word that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had spoken by phone on the weekend with the CEOs of the six major US banks, including the Bank of America, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase.

According to a statement from the Treasury Department, all the CEOs agreed that they have sufficient available liquidity to make loans to consumers, the financial markets and to carry out other market operations.

That information, according to economic expert Neil Irwin, caused more damage than it was intended to prevent because suddenly investors began to question whether they should be concerned about bank liquidity, something that evidently had not crossed their minds until then.

It also didn’t help when Trump lambasted the Federal Reserve on Monday, saying that the US economy’s “only problem” is the Fed and its plan to gradually hike interest rates.

The president believes that the gradual monetary adjustment being pursued by the Fed threatens the growth of the US economy and he has not hesitated to criticize the entity, breaking with tradition whereby the White House has allowed the central bank to operate independently and without comment.

In fact, Trump insisted on Tuesday that the Fed, headed by Chairman Jerome Powell, whom he appointed, is raising interest rates too quickly.

IANS