Foreign holdings of US Treasuries hit record high; Japan holdings rise, data shows

BY Reuters | TREASURY | 04/17/24 06:38 PM EDT

By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss

NEW YORK, April 17 (Reuters) - Foreign holdings of U.S. Treasuries surged to a record in February, its fifth straight monthly rise, Treasury Department data released on Wednesday showed.

Holdings totaled $7.965 trillion, up from a revised $7.945 trillion in January. Treasuries owned by foreigners rose 8.7% from a year earlier.

Holdings of Treasuries grew the most in Belgium, by $27 billion, to hit $320 billion. Japan, the largest non-U.S. holder of Treasuries, increased its U.S. government debt to $1.167 trillion, the largest since August 2022 when the country's holdings were at $1.196 trillion.

Investors have been alert to the threat of Japanese intervention in the currency market to boost the yen, which plunged to a 34-year low of 154.79 per dollar on Tuesday.

The Bank of Japan intervened three times in 2022, selling the dollar to buy yen, first in September and again in October as the yen slid toward a 32-year low of 152 to the dollar.

In September and October 2022, Japan's Treasury holdings declined $131.6 billion from $1.196 trillion in August.

China's pile of Treasuries also fell in February to $775 billion, data showed. The monthly decline of $22.7 billion was the second biggest among the 20 major countries on the Treasury's list.

Holdings of Treasuries by China, the world's second largest economy, have been declining, reaching $763.5 billion in February, the lowest since March 2009.

Britain listed its Treasury holdings at $700.8 billion, up about $9 billion from January.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury yield started February at 3.863% and ended the month at 4.252%, up nearly 39 basis points. Yields rose as a slew of solid economic data was released that month, reflecting expectations that the Federal Reserve will delay cutting interest rates.

Major U.S. asset classes had inflows during the month, the data showed.

On a transaction basis, U.S. Treasuries posted inflows of $88.8 billion, up from $46.3 billion in January.

Foreign buying of U.S. corporates and agencies persisted in February, with inflows of $52.7 billion and $3.7 billion, respectively.

U.S. equities showed a minor inflow of $400 million, compared with outflows of $15.4 billion in January.

Overall, net foreign acquisitions of long- and short-term securities, as well as banking flows, showed a net inflow of $51.6 billion in February, up from outflows of $30.8 billion the previous month, Treasury data showed. (Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss; Editing by Richard Chang)

In general the bond market is volatile, and fixed income securities carry interest rate risk. (As interest rates rise, bond prices usually fall, and vice versa. This effect is usually more pronounced for longer-term securities.) Fixed income securities also carry inflation risk and credit and default risks for both issuers and counterparties. Unlike individual bonds, most bond funds do not have a maturity date, so avoiding losses caused by price volatility by holding them until maturity is not possible.

Lower-quality debt securities generally offer higher yields, but also involve greater risk of default or price changes due to potential changes in the credit quality of the issuer. Any fixed income security sold or redeemed prior to maturity may be subject to loss.

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