FROM THE OFFICE OF PUBLIC AFFAIRSPO-749
As a consequence of the further weakening of the economy and the increased federal outlays that have occurred since the attacks of September 11 th, the near-term financing requirements of the federal government are larger than we anticipated just three months ago at our last quarterly refunding in August. In this setting, the management of the Treasury's marketable debt needs to anticipate the possibility of a unified budget deficit for this fiscal year and, perhaps, the following fiscal year as well. However, even if this happens, we expect that the federal government will return to surpluses in the coming years.
- The terms of the November refunding, including a new 5-year note in the amount of $16 billion and a reopening of the 5 percent 10-year note issued in August 2001 in the amount of $7 billion; and that
- We are adjusting the debt buyback program as follows:
- We will continue to conduct buybacks for the remainder of this calendar year;
- We will make no buybacks in January 2002; and
- Beginning in February 2002, we will announce at our quarterly refundings the amount and timing of any buyback operations for the subsequent three-month period; and finally that
- We are suspending issuance of the 30-year bond: there will be no auction of 30-year securities in February 2002 and we plan no further auctions of either 30-year nominal or inflation-adjusted bonds.
Recent Changes in the Fiscal Outlook
Debt issuance over the past several years has been structured in an environment of large budget surpluses. However, the fiscal environment has changed substantially over the past few months due to the slowdown in economic activity and to the federal government's prompt response to the attacks of September 11 th. The Treasury's debt management has adjusted already, and will continue to adjust, as we accommodate the federal government's increased financing needs during this period. But our expectation is that these heightened financing requirements will prove short-lived, as the economy eventually strengthens, and as the pressures for increased federal outlays stemming from the attacks of September 11 th subside.
Suspension of Thirty-Year Borrowing
The debt management strategy of the Treasury has been to strive to be regular and predictable in the issuance of debt while minimizing borrowing costs over many years and interest rate cycles. The Treasury does not try to outsmart the market at any one moment or to be a market timer with respect to any particular shape of the yield curve. However, debt management necessarily involves judgments about the size and duration of the federal government's borrowing needs. This compels us to focus on likely borrowing needs over the coming years but we also take into account the likely consequences of unlikely outcomes.
We do not need the 30-year bond to meet the government's current financing needs, nor those that we expect to face in coming years. Looking beyond the next few years, as I already observed, we believe that the likely outcome is that the federal government's fiscal position will improve after the temporary setback that we are now experiencing.
There are two less likely outcomes that we have also considered.
First, it is possible that the federal government will return to significant and sustained budget surpluses even more quickly than we now expect. In this event, maintaining current issuance levels of 30-year bonds would be unnecessary and expensive to taxpayers.
Second, we face the possibility that sustained surpluses do not materialize as promptly as we now expect. If later in this decade it turns out that 30-year borrowing is necessary to meet the government's financing needs, it is still likely that our decision to suspend 30-year borrowing at this time will have saved the taxpayers money. In addition, the reintroduction of the 30-year bond, at some point in the future, if necessary, would likely be costless to the Treasury.
The 30-year bond no longer maintains a position of significance in the financial markets. Its role and its liquidity have been significantly impaired by the substantial reduction of issuance that has occurred over the last decade. But the markets have functioned smoothly during this period while both activity and attention have shifted to our 10-year offerings.
As long as we have borrowing requirements to finance, the Treasury will seek to maintain the liquidity and depth of the instruments we issue as a means of achieving the lowest cost of borrowing for the taxpayer over time. At this time, the best means for us to do this is to suspend issuance of the 30-year bond and concentrate our borrowing needs on our other instruments.
Adjustment of the buyback program
In response to the altered budget outlook for this fiscal year, we are also making adjustments in our buyback program. Beginning in February 2002, our decisions on whether to conduct buyback operations, and on the amount and timing of any purchases, will be made at the time of our regular quarterly refunding announcements and will be based upon three factors:
- first, our projections of the federal government's annual, unified surplus or deficit position;
- second, our projections of that three-month period's cash position; and,
- third, our analysis of how best to minimize borrowing costs over time.
In making the transition to these new procedures, our buyback operations for the remainder of this calendar year will continue in line with our prior announcements. In August we stated that we would be purchasing approximately $9 billion during the fourth calendar quarter. So far we have purchased $2.5 billion and the remaining $6.5 billion will be purchased in November and December. Due to the holidays in November and December, however, the timing of our specific announcements will be altered from recent practice. We will make announcements of the specific amounts and maturities of our purchases on November 14 and 28 and on December 12 and 19 for operations to take place on the following day.
We will make no buyback purchases in January 2002. Beginning with our February 2002 quarterly refunding, we will include the details of any buyback operations to be conducted in the subsequent three months in our regular refunding announcements.
In light of the information that we now have, market participants should understand that there are likely to be periods in which we do not conduct buyback operations and that there are likely to be other periods in which we do conduct such operations, consistent with the ebb and flow of our cyclical cash position. But the presence or absence of these operations will be clearly announced, in advance, as part of our refunding process.
Terms of the November Refunding
I will now turn to the terms of the November Refunding. We are offering $23 billion of notes to refund approximately $21.6 billion of privately held notes and bonds maturing on November 15, raising approximately $1.4 billion. The securities are:
- A new 5-year note in the amount of $16 billion, maturing November 15, 2006.
- A re-opening of the 5% 10-year note issued in August 2001 and previously reopened in October 2001, maturing August 15, 2011, in the amount of $7 billion.
These securities will be auctioned on a yield basis at 1:00 p.m. eastern time on Tuesday, November 6, and Wednesday, November 7, respectively. The balance of our financing requirements will be met through 2-year note and bill offerings.
As announced on Monday, we estimate that we will have a $35 billion cash balance on December 31 and a $30 billion cash balance on March 31.
Our next quarterly refunding announcement will take place on Wednesday, January 31, 2002.