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Meager Foreign Participation in Treasury Auctions

Today's auction of $21 bln in 3-year treasury notes drew 24% participation from foreign investors (indirect bidders), which was above February's 22% but lower than the 2003 and 2004 averages of 27% and 45%.

Last month's 2-year auction drew 24% participation -- the lowest since November 2004, while the 5-year auction drew 21% participation -- the lowest since the records began in February 2003.

  • Although the high yield element of the US treasuries does remain a point of attraction for foreign investors, it is not reflected in the primary market auctions, leading us to believe that private investors (foreign central banks and offshore hedge) are mostly snapping them in the secondary market.

  • But the increasingly meager foreign participation in US treasury auctions could reflect a general backtracking in foreign demand for US paper in light of the combination of a looming end to the Fed rate hikes and the emergence of the dollar's external imbalances, which is not expected to acquiesce any time soon with oil prices on the rise.

  • The concern on US fixed income paper becomes highlighted when discouraged foreign participation in treasury auctions begins to: 1) raise the cost of government borrowing and; 2) further impacts the housing market as it drives up long term yields along with rising inflationary expectations.


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