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For Baselle: Treasury Bills Trade at Negative Rates

December 9th, 2008 at 01:45 pm

Looks like you can stop searching for change and still outpace treasuries

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Dec. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Treasuries rose, pushing rates on the three-month bill negative for the first time, as investors gravitate toward the safety of U.S. government debt amid the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

The Treasury sold $27 billion of three-month bills yesterday at a discount rate of 0.005 percent, the lowest since it starting auctioning the securities in 1929. The U.S. also sold $30 billion of four-week bills today at zero percent for the first time since it began selling the debt in 2001.

“It’s the year-end factor,” said Chris Ahrens, an interest-rate strategist in Greenwich, Connecticut, at UBS Securities LLC, one of the 17 primary dealers that trade directly with the Federal Reserve. “Everyone wants to be in bills going into year-end. Buy now while the opportunity is still there.”

The benchmark 10-year note’s yield dropped seven basis points, or 0.07 percentage point, to 2.67 percent at 3:10 p.m. in New York, according to BGCantor Market Data. The 3.75 percent security due in November 2018 gained 21/32, or $6.56 per $1,000 face amount, to 109 12/32. The yield touched 2.505 percent on Dec. 5, the lowest level since at least 1962, when the Fed’s daily records began.

The two-year note’s yield fell nine basis points to 0.85 percent. It dropped to a record low of 0.77 percent on Dec. 5.

If you invested $1,000 in three-month bills today at a negative discount rate of 0.01 percent, for a price of 100.002556. At maturity you would receive the par value for a loss of $25.56.

‘Horrible Year’

Indirect bidders, a group that includes foreign central banks, bought 47.2 percent of the four-week bills, compared with 31.7 percent in the prior auction. Primary dealers bought 52.1 percent, while direct bidders such as individual investors purchased 0.7 percent.

“It’s been such a horrible year people want to show they have the good stuff on their balance sheets, not the bad stuff, but with yields already so low it pushes these even lower,” said Theodore Ake, the head of Treasury trading in New York at Mizuho Securities USA Inc., another primary dealer.

The rate on four-week bills peaked at 5.175 percent on Jan. 29, 2007. The government began issuing the four-week bills in July 2001, according to Stephen Meyerhardt, a spokesman for the Bureau of Public Debt in Washington. The bills are intended to reduce the government’s reliance on irregularly issued cash management bills.

Meyerhardt wasn’t aware of the three-month bill ever trading at a negative rate before.

Housing Slump

Treasuries of all maturities have returned 11.4 percent this year, the best gains since all of 2000, according to Merrill Lynch & Co.’s U.S. Treasury Master Index. That compares with a 39 percent loss in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index, including reinvested dividends.

Bonds have surged as the U.S. housing slump pushed up the cost of credit globally, causing equity markets to tumble. The world’s biggest financial companies incurred almost $1 trillion in writedowns and losses since the start of last year, helping push the major economies into recession.

The National Association of Realtors’ index of signed purchase agreements, or pending home resales, fell a less-than- forecast 0.7 percent to 88.9 from a revised 89.5 in September, according to a report from the group today in Washington. The median forecast in a Bloomberg News survey of 35 economists was for a 3 percent decline.

Futures contracts on the Chicago Board of Trade show odds of 98 percent the Fed will lower its 1 percent target rate on overnight loans between banks to 0.25 percent on Dec. 16. The probability was 38 percent a week ago. Rate predictions based on the futures are not considered as accurate as once were because the Fed hasn’t sought to bring the daily effect rate to the level of its target.

Mutual Funds

Money-market mutual funds that buy mostly Treasuries are starting to turn away new investors as the record low yields pull down returns for shareholders and squeeze managers’ fees.

At least three Treasury money-market funds run by JPMorgan Chase & Co., Evergreen Investments and Allegiant Asset Management recently stopped taking outside cash, according to Web site notices and regulatory filings. Barring new customers protects returns for investors already in the funds because managers don’t have to buy as many new Treasuries with yields lower than current holdings. Higher fund yields also prop up management fees.

The record low borrowing costs for the Treasury may turn out to benefit President-elect Barack Obama as he faces a widening budget deficit while pledging to embark on the biggest U.S. public works plan since the 1950s to stimulate the economy.

The U.S. is headed toward $1.5 trillion in debt sales as the budget deficit approaches $1 trillion in the 2009 fiscal year according to Bank of America Corp. The deficit this year was $455 billion.

The Treasury will sell $28 billion of three-year notes tomorrow and $16 billion of 10-year notes the following day. The $44 billion total is about $3 billion more than expected by Wrightson ICAP LLC.

To contact the reporters on this story: Daniel Kruger in New York at dkruger1@bloomberg.net; Cordell Eddings in New York at ceddings@bloomberg.net

Source: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aOGXsWKEI6F4&refer=worldwide

5 Responses to “For Baselle: Treasury Bills Trade at Negative Rates ”

  1. Joan.of.the.Arch Says:

    Uh...Wow? Shaking my head.

  2. baselle Says:

    I just saw that. So funny - it would be better to put the bucks in the C of I account (aka the mattress) because you can at least you can move it away.

  3. Broken Arrow Says:

    What a crazy time we live in. Not even this shocks me anymore....

  4. Aleta Says:

    Did you ever think that you would see the day when this would happen?

  5. merch Says:

    Never. I say to Uncle Sam "SELL SELL SELL SELL SELL SELL SELL!!!!"

    Might be the easiest way to get out of debt.

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