Chart of the week: US monthly cash balance

Summary: A shutdown is easiest in Q2

What the chart shows: The chart shows the US Federal Government monthly cash balance over the past ten years

Why is the chart important: One (of many) problems relating to the discussion about the US Federal Government debt ceiling is the monthly pattern of revenue and expenditure. The first three months of the fiscal year – October to December – tend to be deficit months. Only in January ist here usually a cash surplus. But by that time, the cumulative balance is already so deep into the red that it is impossible to catch up. It also means that government spending is quickly hit by the need to restrict expenditures to revenues. With the recent agreement on the debt ceiling, the US government is functioning until February next year. At that stage, there may be a further cliff-hanger of shutdowns and debt ceiling threats – or there may not. But from a government perspective, calendar Q2 is easier to deal with than calendar Q4 or Q1, since revenues tend to exceed expenditures for a brief period.