U.S. government shutdown slows flow of data to a trickle

WASHINGTON Tue Oct 1, 2013 11:51am EDT

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WASHINGTON Oct 1 (Reuters) - A partial shutdown of the U.S. government began to delay the release of data on the world's largest economy on Tuesday, leaving policymakers and investors in a fog.

From crop yields to unemployment figures, many of the nation's most closely watched data will not be published during the shutdown that began at midnight (0400 GMT).

The Bureau of Economic Analysis, which publishes data on economic growth, shut down its website overnight and failed to issue a report on construction spending that was supposed to be released at 10 a.m. (1400 GMT).

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which was scheduled to publish the nation's monthly employment report for September on Friday, said it would not issue anything until government operations resumed.

"During the shutdown period BLS will not collect data, issue reports, or respond to public inquiries," the agency said. "Updates to the site will start again when the federal government resumes operations. Revised schedules will be issued as they become available."

Congress failed to reach a deal overnight to fund whole swaths of government, and federal offices began shutting down early on Tuesday. The dearth of data will make it harder for policymakers and investors to gauge the health of the U.S. economy and the supply of commodities into global markets.

The monthly jobs report, which provides the nation's unemployment rate and a gauge of hiring by employers, regularly sets the tone for financial markets worldwide.

Without it, investors will rely more on a employment report produced by payrolls processor ADP, which is due on Wednesday. The ADP report has a spotty record in predicting job growth compared to the government's more comprehensive tally.

"This is going to push the ADP report more into the spotlight," said Mike Cullinane, head of Treasuries trading at D.A. Davidson in St. Petersburg, Florida. "It might to be the only employment report we are going to get this month."

The Department of Agriculture also closed its main websites and stopped issuing data for dozens of reports that allow investors and businesses to track crops and livestock.

Early in the morning, the department released a report on daily grain exports that will likely be its last until the government reopens. The United States is the world's largest exporter of agricultural goods.

Some government data, however, will continue to flow, including a weekly report on claims for jobless aid and, at least for the next week or so, data on energy output and prices. The Department of Energy's statistical agency said it will not immediately run out of funds for its operations.

Like ADP, other privately produced economic figures will continue to be published, such as the data issued on Tuesday by the Institute for Supply Management that showed factory activity picking up in September.

It is not clear how quickly the government could gear up to produce any of the report that are being delayed, and whether a swift end to the shutdown might still allow the monthly employment report to come out on Friday as scheduled.

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