As noted by the Wall Street Journal this morning (“U.S., in Nod to Creditors, Is Adding TIPS Issues“), Treasury is issuing more Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS). Today’s auction involves $10 billion 10-year notes; one estimate suggest that total TIPS issuance this year will be $80-85 billion. Still small compared to our nation’s overall borrowing needs (somewhere in the $1 trillion range, not including rolling over existing debt), but a real boost to the TIPS world.
As I discussed in two earlier posts (here and here), many observers have recommended that Treasury increase TIPS issuance. The WSJ piece emphasizes one particular set of advocates: our creditors who are beginning to worry about inflation:
TIPS, which account for less than 10% of the $7 trillion Treasury market, offer investors a way to hedge against inflation as their value rises along with the increase in consumer prices. The fixed returns on nominal Treasurys, in contrast, can be eroded over time by inflation, which especially affects long-term bonds.
The small size of the market for inflation-protected securities means many large investors who want to be able to sell easily still prefer other ways to hedge against inflation risk, such as commodities.
But in the past year, China and other large foreign investors have become vocal about their concerns that the large U.S. fiscal deficits and the Federal Reserve’s ultra-loose monetary policy will lead to a spike in inflation. That would hurt the value of their large holdings of nominal Treasurys.
U.S. officials reassured China in late July that the Treasury remained committed to its TIPS program and would take investors’ views into account when drawing up its issuance plans. That pledge was seen as a commitment to increasing TIPS sales.