China increases holdings of US Treasury securities

AP News
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Posted: Jun 15, 2011 3:01 PM
China increases holdings of US Treasury securities

China, the biggest buyer of U.S. Treasury debt, boosted its holdings in April, the first increase after five straight declines.

The Treasury Department said Wednesday that China increased its holdings by $7.6 billion to $1.15 trillion.

Total foreign holdings of Treasury securities rose 0.2 percent to $4.49 trillion.

Japan, the second largest buyer of U.S. debt, trimmed its holdings slightly by $1 billion to $906.9 billion. There had been concerns that the March 11 earthquake and tsunami would lead Japan to sharply reduce its purchases to use the money for reconstruction.

The government hit its $14.3 trillion borrowing limit on May 16. Since then, Treasury officials have been making various bookkeeping maneuvers to clear room to continue normal borrowing operations. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has said he will run out of maneuvering room by Aug. 2 if Congress has not passed a higher debt limit by that time.

The debt limit is the amount the government can borrow to finance its operations.

Republicans are demanding spending cuts that would equal the total increase in the debt limit. But Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke warned Republicans on Tuesday that it would be dangerous to use an increase in the debt ceiling as leverage to get spending cuts.

The deficit is expected to exceed $1 trillion for the third straight year as the government is borrowing 40 cents of every dollar it spends and a large portion of that borrowing is financed by foreigners.

Analysts said that latest foreign holdings data show that foreign buyers of Treasurys were not deterred in April by the politics affecting the U.S. debt limit.

Gregory Daco, U.S. economist at Global Insight, said foreign investors still consider U.S. Treasury securities a good investment, particularly at a time of global turmoil over such issues as European debt problems.

"Private investors seem to be making the bet that the current U.S. growth slowdown is transitory and that momentum should pick up in the second half of the year," Daco said.

The Treasury report said that the United Kingdom, the third largest holder of Treasury securities, increased its holdings to $333 billion in April, up from $325.2 billion in March.