Amidst an imminent government shutdown due to Congress’s stalled federal appropriations bill for the fiscal year beginning October 1, 2023, the financial sector holds its breath. The potential shutdown’s ripple effects are poised to stretch beyond traditional markets, reaching into the cryptocurrency sphere, particularly Bitcoin, according to Greg Cipolaro, Global Head of Research at NYDIG.
Federal Shutdowns: An Emerging Norm
The occurrence of federal shutdowns is becoming less sporadic. Over the years, 10 instances have been recorded, with the most recent one in 2018 – 2019 lasting a record 35 days, costing the government an estimated $5 billion. It’s difficult to predict a shutdown’s duration, as it largely hinges on lawmakers’ negotiations. However, the increasing political polarization hints at a longer standoff this time around.
Credit Rating Agencies on High Alert
Moody’s, holding a AAA credit rating on the US, sounded the alarm on September 27, 2023, cautioning against adverse impacts of a shutdown. This echoes past sentiments, like the 2011 S&P downgrade amidst debt ceiling debates, spotlighting weakened US fiscal policymaking. The persisting discord among political factions continues to unsettle credit rating agencies, potentially foreshadowing broader financial market disruptions.
Bitcoin ETF Awaits SEC Green Light
A direct casualty of the possible shutdown is the delay in the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) approval for a spot Bitcoin ETF. The furlough would significantly trim down SEC’s staff from 4,604 to a mere 437, stalling critical financial product approvals. Notably, the SEC has already postponed decisions on most ETFs, anticipating a prolonged shutdown. The spotlight is on the iShares Bitcoin Trust from BlackRock, among others, awaiting SEC’s nod, which now hinges on the resumption of federal operations post-shutdown.
Law Enforcement and Financial Regulation: The Dual Impact
Two pivotal areas within the crypto realm stand to bear the brunt: law enforcement, chiefly the Department of Justice (DOJ), and financial regulation, predominantly the SEC. While the DOJ is slightly insulated with 84% of its 114,521 staff exempted from furloughs, SEC faces a more stark reality. The severely reduced staff could mean a longer wait for the crypto industry on crucial financial product approvals, particularly the Bitcoin ETF.
Market Reactions Amidst Uncertainty
Bitcoin nudged up by 1.9% over the week despite the ETF decision delay, possibly finding a silver lining in the US’s fiscal woes. Conversely, traditional hedges and markets felt the heat. Gold dipped by 2.9%, the S&P 500 by 1.3%, and the Nasdaq Composite by 0.2%. The bond market too saw a slump, while oil bucked the trend with a 2.3% rise, reflecting a mixed bag of market reactions as the shutdown looms.
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