Margaret Scott

America’s Bond-Market Blues

The market for US Treasury securities is one of the world’s largest and most active debt markets, providing investors with a secure stock of value, while helping to lower America’s debt-servicing costs. But the recent dumping of long-term US debt by foreign investors heralds the end of an era of cheap financing for the US.

BEIJING – The market for United States Treasury securities is one of the world’s largest and most active debt markets, providing investors with a secure stock of value and a reliable income stream, while helping to lower the US government’s debt-servicing costs. But, according to the US Treasury Department, overseas investors sold a record $54.5 billion in long-term US debt in April of this year, with China slashing its holdings by $5.4 billion. This dumping of US government debt by foreign investors heralds the end of an era of cheap financing for the US.

As it stands, the US government holds roughly 40% of its debt through the Federal Reserve and government agencies like the Social Security Trust Fund, while American and foreign investors hold 30% each. Emerging economies – many of which use large trade surpluses to drive GDP growth and supplement their foreign-exchange reserves with the resulting capital inflows – are leading buyers of US debt.

Over the last decade, these countries’ foreign-exchange reserves have swelled from $750 billion to $6.3 trillion – more than 50% of the global total – providing a major source of financing that has effectively suppressed long-term US borrowing costs. With yields on US ten-year bonds falling by 45% annually, on average, from 2000 to 2012, the US was able to finance its debt on exceptionally favorable terms.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

Registration is quick and easy and requires only your email address. If you already have an account with us, please log in. Or subscribe now for unlimited access.

required

Log in

http://prosyn.org/KIBnB0D;
  1. China corruption Isaac Lawrence/Getty Images

    The Next Battle in China’s War on Corruption

    • Chinese President Xi Jinping knows well the threat that corruption poses to the authority of the Communist Party of China and the state it controls. 
    • But moving beyond Xi's anti-corruption purge to build robust and lasting anti-graft institutions will not be easy, owing to enduring opportunities for bureaucratic capture.
  2. Italy unemployed demonstration SalvatoreEsposito/Barcroftimages / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

    Putting Europe’s Long-Term Unemployed Back to Work

    Across the European Union, millions of people who are willing and able to work have been unemployed for a year or longer, at great cost to social cohesion and political stability. If the EU is serious about stopping the rise of populism, it will need to do more to ensure that labor markets are working for everyone.

  3. Latin America market Federico Parra/Getty Images

    A Belt and Road for the Americas?

    In a time of global uncertainty, a vision of “made in the Americas” prosperity provides a unifying agenda for the continent. If implemented, the US could reassert its historical leadership among a group of countries that share its fundamental values, as well as an interest in inclusive economic growth and rising living standards.

  4. Startup office Mladlen Antonov/Getty Images

    How Best to Promote Research and Development

    Clearly, there is something appealing about a start-up-based innovation strategy: it feels democratic, accessible, and so California. But it is definitely not the only way to boost research and development, or even the main way, and it is certainly not the way most major innovations in the US came about during the twentieth century.

  5. Trump Trade speech Bill Pugliano/Getty Images .

    Preparing for the Trump Trade Wars

    In the first 11 months of his presidency, Donald Trump has failed to back up his words – or tweets – with action on a variety of fronts. But the rest of the world's governments, and particularly those in Asia and Europe, would be mistaken to assume that he won't follow through on his promised "America First" trade agenda.