China Threatens to Quit Buying US Treasuries, Cites “Trade Tensions”

China Threatens to Quit Buying US Treasuries, Cites “Trade Tensions” by Wolf Richter – Wolf Street

A financial shot before the bow of the White House.

China – which holds $1.19 trillion of US Treasury securities as part of its $3.1 trillion pile of foreign exchange reserves, and thus is a crucial factor in demand for US government debt – is having second thoughts about this deal.

Officials reviewing China’s foreign-exchange holdings and discussing investment strategies have recommended slowing or even halting purchases of Treasuries, “people familiar with the matter” told Bloomberg.

It’s the message that counts, a financial shot before the bow of the White House. The people “who asked not to be named as they’re not allowed to discuss the matter publicly” told Bloomberg that officials undertaking this investment review think US government bonds are becoming less attractive than other assets, and that trade tensions with the US would offer a reason to curtail or stop buying US Treasuries.

Trade tensions? What do they have to do with Treasuries? The leakers wouldn’t say.

For now, it remains unclear if the these investment strategies have been adopted. The recommendations also don’t concern daily purchases and sales of Treasuries. Bloomberg:

The officials recommended that China closely watch factors such as the outlook for supply of US government debt, along with political developments including trade disputes between the world’s two biggest economies, when deciding whether to cut some Treasury holdings, the people said.

If implemented – if it’s not just a verbal and purposefully leaked warning shot in direction of the White House – this change in China’s investment strategies could come at a very inconvenient time.

With the tax cuts in place, the US government will have to borrow even more to make ends meet, and thus will have to douse the market with additional supply of Treasury debt that will need to find enthusiastic buyers, just as the Fed has stepped away from the table and has started unwinding its holdings of Treasury debt.

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Wolf Richter

In his cynical, tongue-in-cheek manner, he muses on WOLF STREET about economic, business, and financial issues, Wall Street shenanigans, complex entanglements, and other things, debacles, and opportunities that catch his eye in the US, Europe, Japan, and occasionally China. WOLF STREET is the successor to his first platform… TP-Title-7-small-200px …whose ghastly name he finally abandoned in July 2014. Here’s the story on that. Wolf lives in San Francisco. He has over twenty years of C-level operations experience, including turnarounds and a VC-funded startup. He earned his BA and MBA in Texas and his MA in Oklahoma, worked in both states for years, including a decade as General Manager and COO of a large Ford dealership and its subsidiaries. But one day, he quit and went to France for seven weeks to open himself up to new possibilities, which degenerated into a life-altering three-year journey across 100 countries on all continents, much of it overland. And it almost swallowed him up.