Traders and many economists tend not to be fans of big government. But they depend on the feds for something near and dear to their heart: data. Every week, the government publishes figures – everything from housing figures to personal income – that give traders and economists clues to the direction of the economy. Without them, there'll be more uncertainty and, if a shutdown lasts long enough, a pullback from investors. “The natural thing to do is to say, ‘I don’t know if things are good or bad, so I’m a bit nervous about having my money in the stock market,’” says Paul Ashworth, an economist at Capital Economics, a research firm in Toronto. “For a short term, if it was one or two weeks, we would just muddle through.”
It's not just Wall Street that would be in the dark. On Monday, the US Department of Agriculture is supposed to put out a report on planting progress – key data for commodities traders and food companies as they try to figure out what the supply of corn and other crops will be this fall. If the government shuts down, that report won't come out. “We can limp along for a period of time, but I can’t call 50 farmers in every state [to ask about production],” says Dan Basse, the president of AgResource Company, an agricultural research company in Chicago.