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Foreign Central Bank Treasury Holdings At The Fed Decline In January For The First Time In Years

Courtesy of Tyler Durden

The last thing that the fixed income market needs now, with ever greater uncertainty out of European bond land,  is weakness where it hurts the most: the US balance sheet. Yet last Thursday’s H.4.1 report indicated something which could be more troubling than even Greece’s credit crisis morphing into a liquidity one, namely, that foreign central banks’ UST holdings at the Fed declined for the first time in over two years.

What could be precipiating this? Quite a few factors have emerged recently:

1) A seemingly endless supply of Treasuries (especially the 2,5, and 7 Y) for which the indirect bid continues to be over 50%. This alone is confusing in light of the custody decline.

2) Concerns over developed country sovereign risk: last week S&P downgraded it Japan outlook and issued a scathing report on UK sovereign and financial risk.

3) Kansas Fed’s Hoenig dissent on tightening monetary policy. This is the proverbial first shot across the Fed’s bow. Hoenig’s “believed that economic and financial conditions had changed sufficiently that the expectation of exceptionally low levels of the federal funds rate for an extended period was no longer warranted.”

4) Economic conditions have taken a decidely bearish tone. JPM’s EASI index of economic surprises (lower means greater amount of negative surprises) just took a dramatic turn lower.

5) Flattening and outright inversion in a variety of financial corp spreads in the 5s10s bracket.

6) AAA CMBS spreads widened by 30 bps. If sovereign risk is in question, why should insolvent REITs be any better?

Regardless of which specific set of news may have precipitated the January Treasury effect, this is truly a scary observation, which however does not jive with the indirect take down continuing to be as strong as ever: if indeed the custody data is correct, then all the indirect bid data has to be taken with not just a dash of salt, but as Rosenberg says, an entire salt shaker.


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