Another year, another threat of government shutdown in the United States. In 2012, a shutdown of government services had been narrowly avoided as political brinkmanship eventually yielded a last-minute decision to boost the US debt ceiling.
But this time around, the process was even more fraught. Congress didn't enact the legislation required to appropriate funds for 2014 and with Republicans and Democrats digging their heels in, the world's largest economy headed for real trouble. With no deal brokered, government services were shut down for 17 days in October.
That shook international markets, while Goldman Sachs reckoned the shutdown knocked about 0.5pc from the US quarterly GDP. It also forced businesses to delay investment decisions, hampering recovery. Senator John McCain, who was a candidate in the 2008 US presidential election, said the squabble was "one of the most shameful chapters I have seen in the years I've spent in the Senate". In December, a new, longer-term deal was agreed by Congress that will finance the government for the next two years. It will raise government spending to more than $1 trillion (€730bn) in 2014, higher than the $967bn in 2011, which was the previous record.