Why the S&P 500 Is Lower Today

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over daily movements, we do like to keep an eye on market changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

The U.S. government shutdown has continued into its second week, pulling stock markets down as investors grow increasingly concerned that Congress will risk a default of the country's debts. As of 1:30 p.m. EDT the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC  ) is down 0.47% to 1,683 points. The largest ETF tracking the S&P 500, SPDR S&P 500 (NYSEMKT: SPY  ) , is down 0.49% to $168.07.

The S&P 500 would have dropped more today if not for Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) , which is up 1.7% to $492.30. As the company with the largest market cap in the U.S., Apple has the biggest effect on the S&P 500 of any single stock, with a weighting of 2.7%, yet its jump today is not enough to pull the S&P 500 into the green. Apple is up today after an analyst from Jefferies upgraded Apple stock from hold to buy and raised his price target on the stock from $425 to $600 following a trip to China during which he said suppliers were positive on Apple and appeared to have given in to Apple on pricing, which should improve the company's gross margin. Another report from an analyst at Cowen reiterated the firm's "outperform" rating and $550 price target.

Government shutdown
As I have said many times, the government shutdown isn't a big deal in and of itself for the market. Economists estimate its effect on the economy is 0.1-0.15 percentage points of GDP growth per week. That's bad, especially if it's prolonged, but it's certainly manageable. Since the shutdown started the S&P 500 is down just 0.21%. The big risk continues to be the looming debt-ceiling crisis.

The Treasury Department estimates that it will run out of cash to pay all of the U.S. government's bills on Oct. 17. The markets do not expect Congress will let the U.S. default on its debt, however, the market has certainly been surprised by the government before. Representatives from the financial industry met with the President and lawmakers last week to stress to them the importance of raising the debt ceiling. No one really knows all of the wide-ranging effects and unintended consequences of a U.S. default -- even a temporary technical default -- would have on world financial markets. I believe it will come down to the wire but that Congress will raise the debt ceiling in the end.

Foolish bottom line
We will no doubt get through this at some point. Life will go on, entrepreneurs will still work to create great companies, and the world will become a better place. That said, in both the public sector and the private sector, governance functions best when stakeholders educate themselves, take an active interest in what's going on, and hold their representatives accountable.

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