TBAC-O Road? Treasury Announces Big Cut In Borrowing (Despite Skyrocketing Deficits) But Shifting Towards More Expensive, Higher Duration Coupon Bonds

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by confoundedinterest17

Constitution Avenue in Washington DC is actually becoming Tobacco Road. No, not the dysfunctional family of Georgia sharecroppers during the Great Depression, but the Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee (TBAC).

On Monday, after we got the first part of the Treasury’s Quarterly Refunding Announcement (QRA), in which the Treasury unexpectedly announced a big drop in its borrowing estimates for Q1 (from $816BN to $760BN) coupled with a shockingly low calendar Q2 borrowing estimate of just $202BN (as a reminder we got the second part of the QRA this morning which came in very much as expected)…

… yields tumbled as this was viewed as an aggressively dovish outlook on the future of i) the US fiscal deficit and ii) the debt needed to fund said deficit. Here is another way of visualizing the US historical and projected marketable debt funding needs:

Commenting on this surprise drop in expected borrowing, on Monday we said that the numbers also mean that the Reverse Repo facility will be fully drained by Q2, and we expect that on Wednesday we will learn that the bulk of the reduction in Q1 and Q2 estimates will be due to sharply lower Bill issuance for one simple reason: there is just no more Reverse Repo cash to buy it all.

Boy, were we right: earlier today, in the Treasury’s presentation to the Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee (TBAC) as part of the Quarterly Refunding, Janet Yellen revealed what the composition of this sharp drop in Q2 funding needs would be. As we expected, it was all bills!

In fact, as the chart below – which we have dubbed the scariest chart in the Treasury’s presentation to TBAC today (link here) – shows, with Bills expected to fund some $442 Billion of the $760BN funding deficit in the Jan-March quarter (the balance of $318BN funded by coupons), in Q2 the Treasury now anticipates a $245BN DECLINE in net Bills outstanding (i.e., not only no incremental Bill funding but a quarter trillion maturity in Bills outstanding). In other words, while we expected a “sharply lower” Bill issuance in Q2, the Treasury is actually expecting a $245BN drawdown in Bills.

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But wait, there’s more: because while the market was expecting some pro rata decline in coupon issuance to go with the slide in net Bills (we were not) in Q2 to justify the sharp drop in long-end yields, it was not meant to be. In fact, just the opposite, because as highlighted in the chart above, net Coupon issuance in Q2 is actually expected to increase by $130BN to $447BN from $318BN in Q1. This is a huge shift in higher duration supply, and is hardly what all those who were buying 10Y bonds on Monday were expecting, and yes, that too was to be expected: with Bills now well above the “comfortable” ceiling of 20% as a percentage of total debt outstanding, the Treasury had no choice but to roll it back, especially since the Reverse Repo is already mostly drained. And sure enough, in its presentation, the Treasury no longer anticipates a flood of Bill issuance in the future.

That’s not all: while the Treasury said it does “not anticipate needing to make any further increases in nominal coupon or FRN auction sizes, beyond those being announced today, for at least the next several quarters”, the TBAC politely disagreed, stating that “it may be appropriate over time to consider incremental increases in coupon issuance depending on how the current uncertainty regarding borrowing needs evolves”  (translation: as the need to bribe the population with more fiscal stimmies ahead of November rises, so will borrowing needs).

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As for any naive expectations that any decline in issuance in structural instead of merely shifting away from Bills to Coupons, we have some more bad news: as the table below confirms, the Primary Dealer estimate of the US 2024 budget deficit dropped just $22BN in the past quarter, from $1.8 trillion to $1.778 trillion, a meaningless change (expect this number to rise sharply as the full brunt of fiscal stimulus in an election year become visible).

As for the bigger picture, well you can listen to either the Primary Dealers…

… or the CBO:

Both reach the same sad conclusion, the same one voiced by Nassim Taleb on Monday when he said that “we need something to come in from the outside, or maybe some kind of miracle…. This makes me kind of gloomy about the entire political system in the Western world.”

Sorry, Nassim, no miracles… just lots and lots of money printing coming.

And speaking of money printing, the fact that Bill issuance is about to grind to a halt in Q2 means that, just as we expected, reverse repo balances will tumble in the remaining two months of Q1…

… bringing it effectively to zero (which means the Treasury’s stock market liquidity pump is now almost drained), at which point the Fed will have to take over and taper QT as the alternative would be draining some $100BN in reserves every month at a time when total Fed reserves are already at the level which Waller hinted may be the infamous LoLCR floor which is a hard constraint at “10-11% of GDP.” The alternative is simple: a stock market crash just months before the November election, hardly the stuff Biden’s handlers or the anti-Trump Deep State would approve of.

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