The world's two biggest holders of US Treasury bonds, Japan and China, have sold a significant portion of the American government debt over the course of the last months, official data shows.
Following a gradual increase in the amount of treasuries in its possession until August 2019, Japan assumed first place in the list of foreign holders, surpassing China, which had long held the top spot. But in September, it dumped a whopping $28.9 billion worth of US government debt out of a total of $1,174 billion.
THIS IS SUPER SCARY. The USA is having trouble funding the USA $TRILLION deficit, because no one wants to buy USA Treasuries at low interest rates. So the Federal Reserve is having to buy them. They are doing it "secretly" through the repo market so not to cause a panic.— Thomas Kaine (@thomaskaine5) November 10, 2019
The former leader in the list of US treasury holders, China, in turn, has sold around $10 billion worth of debt since June 2019. In total, between September 2018 and September 2019, Beijing dumped $49 billion in US treasuries amid its ongoing trade conflict with Washington.
While the trade conflict could explain Beijing's strategy, it does not explain Tokyo’s sell-off. According to economists, the Federal Reserve has been sending signals by reducing interest rates three times since July 2019. The Fed brought the rates down to the 1.5-1.75% range on 30 October. The analysts noted that the regulator's move had thereby reduced the profitability of treasuries and could indicate the Federal Reserve's willingness to further push rates down until they turn negative.
China and Japan are not the only countries that have been selling off US Treasury bonds recently, with Russia practically entirely getting rid of the asset over the course of 2018 and 2019. Previously, Moscow held around $92 billion in US debt. The money received from the move was then used to drastically boost the country's gold reserves, making Moscow one of the biggest gold buyers in 2018 and in the first half of 2019, with China, apparently, following suit, as it secured second place in this rating.