China’s US Treasury debt holdings fall for 6th straight month as outflows persist

Data indicates that capital continued to flow out of China

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 January, 2017, 6:57am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 January, 2017, 6:58am

China’s holdings of US Treasuries declined for a sixth straight month in November, as the world’s second largest economy continued to dip into its reserves to prop up a weakening yuan and stem capital flows.

China’s holdings declined to US$1.049 trillion, a drop of about $66 billion, data from the US Treasury Department showed on Wednesday. November’s drop in China’s holdings was the largest since December 2011’s record fall of $102.7 billion.

“This is in line, at the very least, with data showing that capital continued to flow out of China,” said Gennadiy Goldberg, interest rates strategist, at TD Securities in New York.

“Perhaps this does suggest that there is further pressure on the Chinese central bank to sell Treasuries to raise cash in order to meet those capital outflows,” he added.

China’s yuan currency had weakened around 4 per cent against the dollar in October and November.

The pace of China’s selling of Treasuries is unprecedented. Over the six months through November, China had shed $194.66 billion of Treasuries and over the previous 12 months, had sold $215.11 billion. Both are records.

Japan remained the largest non-US holder of Treasuries for a second straight month in November, holding $1.108 trillion in US government bonds. But that was lower from Japan’s October holdings of $1.131 trillion.

For an eighth consecutive month, foreigners unloaded Treasuries, selling $205 million in November. That was, however, the fewest sold by foreigners since July 2014.

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Tom Simons, money market strategist at Jefferies in New York said the holdings data are reported at the current market value “so the big drops in holdings in Japan and China are likely tied to the rapid rise in interest rates in November” following the US presidential election.

As a result of foreign selling of Treasuries, yields have risen. Yields on US benchmark 10-year Treasury notes at the beginning of November were 1.82 per cent, hitting a high of 2.4170 per cent and ending the month at 2.3670 per cent. Late on Wednesday, US 10-year yields were at 2.427 per cent.

Data also showed foreigners bought $30.8 billion in long-term US assets in November after buying $9.3 billion the previous month. Including shorter-dated securities, overseas investors purchased $23.7 billion in November, after buying $20.6 billion in October.

Foreigners also sold $5.789 billion in US stocks in November, after buying $20.535 billion the previous month.