Commentary on the economic , geopolitical and simply fascinating things going on. Served occasionally with a side of snark.
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
China Sold Second-Largest Amount Ever Of US Treasurys In December: And Guess Who Comes To The Rescue ( Belgium ?? ) ? With foreign purchasers going on a buyers strike for US securities , wonder who steps into the breach ? Ah , that would be you --- "We Are From The Government And We Are Here To Offer You A No Risk, Guaranteed Return Investment Product"
While we will have more to say about the disastrous December TIC data shortly, which was released early today, and which showed a dramatic plunge in foreign purchases of US securities in December - the month when the S&P soared to all time highs and when everyone was panicking about the 3% barrier in the 10 Year being breached and resulting in a selloff in Tsy paper - one thing stands out. The chart below shows holdings of Chinese Treasurys (pending revision of course, as the Treasury department is quite fond of ajdusting this data series with annual regularity): in a nutshell, Chinese Treasury holdings plunged by the most in two years, after China offloaded some $48 billion in paper, bringing its total to only $1268.9 billion, down from $1316.7 billion, and back to a level last seen in March 2013!
This was the second largest dump by China in history with the sole exception of December 2011.
That this happened at a time when Chinese FX reserves soared to all time highs, and when China had gobs of spare cash lying around and not investing in US paper should be quite troubling to anyone who follows the nuanced game theory between the US and its largest external creditor, and the signals China sends to the world when it comes to its confidence in the US.
Yet what was truly surprising is that despite the plunge in Chinese holdings, and Japanese holdings which also dropped by $4 billion in December, is that total foreign holdings of US Treasurys increased in December, from $5716.9 billion to 5794.9 billion.
Why? Because of this country. Guess which one it is without looking at legend.
That's right: at a time when America's two largest foreign creditors, China and Japan, went on a buyers strike, the entity that came to the US rescue was Belgium, which as most know is simply another name for... Europe: the continent that has just a modest amount of its own excess debt to worry about. One wonders what favors were (and are) being exchanged behind the scenes in order to preserve the semblance that "all is well"?
As we reported earlier today, for whatever reason China sold the second biggest amount of US Treasurys in December. However, that was only part of the story. In fact, as we also noted, while the two largest US foreign creditors were net sellers, total foreign bond holdings actually rose in the last month of 2013 and as the chart below confirms, when it comes to Long-Term Treasury paper, foreigners were actually buyers of some $18 billion in Treasurys. It is everything else that they sold in the month when the S&P hit its all time high: specifically, foreigners were net sellers of Agency securities ($15.4 billion), Corporate Bonds ($7.5 billion) and Corporate Equities ($13.7 billion) something which hardly fits with the narrative of the record stock market high generating confidence in even more buying down the line.
In the chart above it is the black line - gross purchases of US long-term securities - that is the most troubling, as its trend is hardly anyone's friend.
So what happens when one smooths out the line to normalize for monthly fluctuations? This:
The chart is very disturbing: it shows that as the S&P rises higher and higher (on ever declining volumes), foreigners are buying fewer and fewer US securities. In fact, on a 12 Month Moving Average basis, foreigners bought less long-term US securities than they did when Lehman crashed!
Luckily we live in a New Normal when price is no longer determined by simple supply and demand (and certainly not from retail investors who have long since given up on the fraudulent, broken US capital "markets") but Fed jawboning of a record $2.5 trillion in bank excess reserves, corporate buybacks and HFT algos spurring momentum ignition and buying because others are buying.
And so we have come full circle, because while, understandably, nobody had any appetite for US securities around the Lehman crash when until the Fed stepped in and singlehandedly took over the US capital markets it was unclear if there even would be a US capital markets, now that five years later the S&P has risen to a level nearly three times the March 2009 lows thanks entirely to the Fed's $4.1 trillion balance sheet backstop, the interest in US securities is... lower than it was in the days just after Lehman!
And just like that, the MyRA propaganda goes full Goebbels retard. Unfortunately, due to time differences, neither Pravda, nor Izvestia or Moskovskij Komsomolets could reply with affirmative comments due to time constraints.
A Look At What They’re Saying About myRA Across the Country
By: Brandi Hoffine
Last month in the State of the Union, President Obama laid out specific executive actions he will take to put more Americans back to work and expand opportunity so that every American can get ahead. Speaking about the importance of securing a dignified retirement, the President announced that he would direct Treasury to create a new way for working Americans to start their own retirement savings. According to independent estimates, about half of all workers and 75 percent of part-time workers lack access to employer-sponsored retirement plans. That is why the Obama administration designed myRA (my Retirement Account) - a simple, safe, and affordable retirement savings account that will be offered through employers to help low- and moderate- income Americans begin to save for retirement.
Below is a look at what newspaper editorial boards and financial columnists across the country are saying.