U.S. Treasury blasts records with $3 trillion borrowing need this quarter

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Treasury Department on Monday said it plans to borrow nearly $3 trillion in the second quarter of 2020 - more than five times larger than the previous record - as the federal government spends at a frantic pace to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus on the U.S. economy

In a statement, Treasury said it would borrow $2.999 trillion during the April-June quarter - higher also than the previous record borrowing for a full fiscal year of $1.8 trillion in 2009.

“It is larger than what we would typically do in a year,” a senior Treasury official said. The Treasury’s net borrowing last fiscal year, by contrast, was $1.28 trillion.

Monday’s estimate is $3.055 trillion more than the original target for the quarter issued in early February, when it was still unclear whether the coronavirus would spread widely in the United States. At that time, it appeared as though the federal government would pay down $56 billion of debt in the current quarter, leading Treasury to forecast a negative estimate for new net marketable debt in the period.

But with the virus spreading rapidly soon after that projection - and tanking the economy along with it - Congress has appropriated nearly $3 trillion to help individuals and companies weather the business shutdowns implemented to slow the pace of the pandemic.

The new borrowing target is more than five times larger than the previous single-quarter record set back in the second half of 2008 to combat the financial crisis.

“Even before the pandemic there was going to be some increased funding needs going forward. But now all things are out the window,” said Mike Lorizio, senior fixed income trader at Manulife Investment Management in Boston.

Monday’s estimate assumes a cash balance of $800 billion at the end of June.

Treasury said it expects to borrow $677 billion during the July-September quarter, assuming an end-September cash balance of $800 billion.

It borrowed $477 billion through credit markets in the January-March quarter, ending the period with $515 billion in cash.

Additional details of Treasury’s quarterly refunding will be announced at 08:30 a.m (1230 GMT) on Wednesday. In February, Treasury said it would announce details of a planned new 20-year bond in May.

“Current financing needs also make it such that Treasury does not need to make any offsetting cuts to 10- or 30-year offerings to ‘make room’ for the new 20-year bond,” a report from Jefferies said. “At this point, Treasury needs to find every available avenue to raise as much cash as efficiently as possible.”

Asked if there was capacity in the market to absorb such a huge volume of debt in just three months, a senior Treasury official said: “We do believe that it’s out there.”

Reporting by Dan Burns; Additional reporting by Karen Pierog in Chicago and Ross Kerber in Boston; Editing by Andrea Ricci

 

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