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U.S. Lifts Debt Sales as Deficit Grows, Plans 2-Month Bills

Stock MarketsMay 02, 2018 09:01AM ET
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© Reuters. U.S. Lifts Debt Sales as Deficit Grows, Plans 2-Month Bills

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Treasury Department will boost the amount of long-term debt it sells to $73 billion this quarter as President Donald Trump’s administration seeks to finance budget deficits set to widen further because of tax cuts and higher spending.

In its quarterly refunding announcement on Wednesday, the department again lifted the auction sizes of coupon-bearing and floating-rate debt after doing so last quarter for the first time since 2009. It again left inflation-linked security sizes unchanged. Treasury also announced plans to issue a new two-month bill later in 2018.

After keeping borrowing relatively stable in recent years, the Treasury announcement highlights the Trump administration’s need to sell debt to help pay the government’s bills as the deficit swells and the Federal Reserve allows maturing securities on its $4.4 trillion balance sheet to roll off gradually. The possible new bill maturity comes after a deluge of sales over the first quarter was partly to blame for money-market rates rising sharply.

The Treasury will sell $31 billion in three-year notes on May 8, versus $30 billion it sold last month and $26 billion in February, according to a statement released in Washington. The government increased to $25 billion the sale of 10-year notes, from $24 billion last quarter, and the 30-year bonds to $17 billion from $16 billion, also to be auctioned next week. The sales will raise new cash of $33.9 billion.

In the statement, the Treasury said it plans over the coming quarter to boost auction-sizes of other maturities.

$27 Billion

The department will notch higher sales of two- and three-year note auctions by $1 billion per month over the quarter, compared with monthly rises over the past quarter of $2 billion. It will also boost five-, seven-, 10-, and 30-year note sales by $1 billion starting in May and lift floating rate notes by $1 billion in May. The changes will result in an additional $27 billion of new issuance.

Treasury plans to conduct small-value buyback this month, it said, adding details will come later. The department said the buyback shouldn’t be seen as a change in policy.

The U.S. budget deficit widened to $600 billion halfway through the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, as spending increased at three times the pace of revenue growth in the October-to-March period, according to Treasury figures released last month.

Tax reductions and higher spending approved by Congress and Trump are expected to push the budget shortfall to $804 billion in the current fiscal year, from $665 billion in fiscal 2017, and then surpass $1 trillion by 2020, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Quarterly Record

The U.S. set a first-quarter record, by borrowing a net $488 billion, or $47 billion more than previously estimated, the Treasury said Monday in a quarterly announcement on its borrowing needs. Still, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has indicated he’s unconcerned about the bond market’s ability to absorb rising government debt.

Earlier this week, bond dealers meeting with Treasury officials indicated that foreign demand for Treasuries “remained robust,” according to minutes from the Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee released Wednesday. That assessment echoed comments Mnuchin made on Monday.

“It’s a very large, robust market -- it’s the most liquid market in the world, and there is a lot of supply,” he said in the interview. “But I think the market can easily handle it.”

A recent report from the International Monetary Fund showed that the U.S.’s debt load by 2023 will be worse that the fiscal position of Italy, the perennial poor man of the Group of Seven industrial nations.

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U.S. Lifts Debt Sales as Deficit Grows, Plans 2-Month Bills
 

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