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Learning Center Experience
By Bruce Kuhlman, Full-Time Faculty, Kaplan University School of Business Published January 2014
When the boy in Aesop’s fable
cried wolf too often, people ignored him, and his imaginary wolf finally
materialized and ate him. When the U.S. government closed for 16 days on
October 1, 2013, the Dow Jones fell modestly but then
increased to finish up strongly for the 2-week period.
other words, financial markets treated the shutdown more or less as they would
a boy who cried wolf simply to gain attention. If this boy cries wolf again,
however, the entire globe could take notice and react dramatically.
To understand why markets—domestic
and global—could react differently to another U.S. government shutdown,
consider the risk and return relationship as demonstrated in the basic equation
for the required return on any investment:
The return on short-term U.S.
government securities, which are seen as default-free, is typically used as the
risk-free rate of return in the equation. The risk premiums in the equation cover
such uncertainties as default risk, liquidity risk, maturity risk, and
inflation. The equation shows clearly that if any of the variables on the
right-hand side of the equation increase, the required return on the asset must
Technical default is not
meeting a financial obligation exactly as promised, amount and date. As with
the October 2013 shutdown, another shutdown would cause the government to miss
interest payments on its obligations. Domestic and international investors will
start to develop suspicions that shutdowns are political tools to be used whenever
politicians want to make a point. They will start to question whether interest
payments, and even returns of principal, will be made in a timely manner. In
other words, investors will question whether the U.S. government can be counted
on to meet its obligations exactly as promised. U.S. government securities will
no longer be seen as default-free.
If this should happen, to
entice investors into Treasury auctions (that is, into lending to the U.S. government!)
the Treasury will have to start paying higher returns on all of its securities.
With the increase in the required return on U.S. government securities (on the
right-hand side of the equation), the returns on all investments must increase.
With increased required returns come lower prices, and the prices of all
outstanding financial securities will fall. The increase in U.S. government required
returns thus could result in billions or even trillions of dollars of lost
market value worldwide.
The bottom line is that even
though investors might have treated the October 2013 shutdown as a mere
short-term political ploy, they will not look kindly on another shutdown, as
they could see a potential pattern. Shutdowns will be seen as another form of
investment risk. A rather intriguing question might be, “What country’s
borrowing will now be used as the risk-free investment?”
Kuhlman is a full-time faculty member at Kaplan
University. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author
and do not represent the view of Kaplan University.
By Cynthia Waddell, PhD, CPA, CFE
By Geoffrey Vanderpal, Full-Time Faculty
By Richard Carter, PhD
By Stanley W. Self, CFE
By Jerry Taylor
By Rachel Byers, Full-Time Faculty, School of Business
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Maylee talks about her experiences with Kaplan Financial Education and preparing for her exams.
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