Big mystery buyer for Treasuries; are his initials B.B.?
Treasury Bids Drive Speculation
By Michael Mackenzie
Financial Times, London
Thursday, January 14, 2010
NEW YORK -- Auctions of US Treasury notes this week have attracted extremely strong buying from domestic institutional investors, fuelling speculation that "one big bidder" has decided to defy the conventional wisdom on Wall Street that US government debt is due for a fall.
The surprising demand for Treasury notes has come in the form of "direct bids," the term used for US institutional investors who bypass the so-called primary dealers that underwrite government bond sales.
On Wednesday, direct bids accounted for 17 per cent of the sales of $21 billion in 10-year Treasury notes, far higher than the recent average of 7.4 per cent. It was the highest percentage of direct bids in a 10-year Treasury auction since May 2005.
On Tuesday, direct bids accounted for a record 23.4 per cent of the bidding for $40 billion in three-year notes, up from an average direct bid of 6 per cent.
Market participants say the unusually high level of direct bidding suggests that a large investor is looking to accumulate Treasuries without alerting the primary dealers on Wall Street to its intentions.
"It appears to us that someone is trying to hide their apparent interest in owning these auctions from the rest of the market," said David Ader, strategist at CRT Capital.
Rick Klingman, managing director at BNP Paribas, said: "It is unusual to see such a spike in the direct bid and I would imagine it is one big bidder. There is no way we will find out who it is, not now, or ever."
The surge in direct bidding is particularly notable because it comes after predictions that the record levels of Treasury debt issuance would exhaust investor demand, driving yields higher.
Among the most high-profile warnings came from Pimco, manager of the largest bond fund, which raised concerns about the escalating supply of US Treasury debt.
Attention will now focus on whether there is similar direct demand for Thursday's $13 billion 30-year bond sale.
The 10-year notes were sold at a yield of 3.754 per cent on Wednesday, the highest rate awarded for a note sale since June, when they were issued at 3.99 per cent. At the start of the year the yield on 10-year notes briefly traded at 3.90 per cent, as many investors talked down the prospects for Treasuries. The note traded at about 3.70 per cent earlier this week and was at 3.70 per cent late on Wednesday.
Under the three main classifications of buyers in Treasury debt sales, direct bidders are generally domestic non-primary dealer banks and large institutional investors. Normally their presence at Treasury auctions is small, as they usually buy debt through the primary dealer network, which currently numbers 18 banks and broker/dealers.
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