May 30, 2024

By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Foreign holdings of U.S. Treasuries surged to a record in February, its fifth straight monthly rise, Treasury Department data released on Wednesday showed.

Holdings totaled $7.965 trillion, up from a revised $7.945 trillion in January. Treasuries owned by foreigners rose 8.7% from a year earlier.

Holdings of Treasuries grew the most in Belgium, by $27 billion, to hit $320 billion. Japan, the largest non-U.S. holder of Treasuries, increased its U.S. government debt to $1.167 trillion, the largest since August 2022 when the country’s holdings were at $1.196 trillion.

Investors have been alert to the threat of Japanese intervention in the currency market to boost the yen, which plunged to a 34-year low of 154.79 per dollar on Tuesday.

The Bank of Japan intervened three times in 2022, selling the dollar to buy yen, first in September and again in October as the yen slid toward a 32-year low of 152 to the dollar.

In September and October 2022, Japan’s Treasury holdings declined $131.6 billion from $1.196 trillion in August.

China’s pile of Treasuries also fell in February to $775 billion, data showed. The monthly decline of $22.7 billion was the second biggest among the 20 major countries on the Treasury’s list.

Holdings of Treasuries by China, the world’s second largest economy, have been declining, reaching $763.5 billion in February, the lowest since March 2009.

Britain listed its Treasury holdings at $700.8 billion, up about $9 billion from January.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury yield started February at 3.863% and ended the month at 4.252%, up nearly 39 basis points. Yields rose as a slew of solid economic data was released that month, reflecting expectations that the Federal Reserve will delay cutting interest rates.

Major U.S. asset classes had inflows during the month, the data showed.

On a transaction basis, U.S. Treasuries posted inflows of $88.8 billion, up from $46.3 billion in January.

Foreign buying of U.S. corporates and agencies persisted in February, with inflows of $52.7 billion and $3.7 billion, respectively.

U.S. equities showed a minor inflow of $400 million, compared with outflows of $15.4 billion in January.

Overall, net foreign acquisitions of long- and short-term securities, as well as banking flows, showed a net inflow of $51.6 billion in February, up from outflows of $30.8 billion the previous month, Treasury data showed.

(Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss; Editing by Richard Chang)