Friday, October 11, 2013

Spike in bill rates rippling through repo, other money markets

Yields on treasury bills with near-term maturities have spiked to multi-year highs as the debt ceiling deadline approaches. While market participants are generally expecting to see a resolution (albeit a temporary one), some are not taking any chances.
USA Today (AP): — Fidelity Investments, the nation's largest money market mutual fund manager, has sold all of its short-term U.S. government debt — the latest sign that investors are increasingly nervous about the possibility of a government default.

Source: US Treasury

Institutional investors have rolled a chunk of their holdings into cash during September but in the last week or so started pulling out of government money market funds - moving funds into bank deposits instead.

Source: ICI (unit=$1MM)

Investors fear that their accounts will be frozen, as money fund managers who don't receive timely payments on bills are unable to meet redemptions. Many money market funds also use repo (collateralized loans) with treasuries or agency MBS as collateral. These short-term loans usually yield slightly more than treasury bills, giving money markets a few extra basis points. But with bills under pressure and investors getting out, repo rates have suddenly risen as well (after a period of declines - see post).
Bloomberg: - “We’ve seen some rise in repo rates in sympathy with the broad move higher in money-market yields, most dramatically in the near-term Treasury bills, given concerns over the debt-ceiling,” said Andrew Hollenhorst, fixed-income strategist at Citigroup Inc. in New York. “October futures contracts have had a sharp yield rise, signaling expectations for significant moves higher ahead, consistent with the sharp spike we saw in 2011 before the August debt-limit deadline.”

Source: DTCC

Some continue to believe that a technical default by the US government would impact treasury securities only. But as we see from the repo example, that assumption is quite naive. An adjustment to bill rates is already rippling through a number of other money market instruments. If we don't have a resolution on the debt ceiling soon, the shock will ripple across broader markets as well.
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