Desperate times are calling for desperate measures at the Treasury Department.
For the first time since 2007, the department is set to auction $15 billion worth of one-day cash management bills on Friday that will be issued on June 5.
This comes as the Treasury’s cash balances hover around $37 billion, the lowest level since 2017. Since the debt ceiling was initially breached in January, the Treasury hasn’t been able to borrow more money to pay its bills. If lawmakers don’t raise the debt ceiling by June 5, the Treasury is poised to run out of funds to meet its full obligations, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned.
Congress appears to be on track to avoid that scenario. The House of Representatives passed the debt deal House Speaker Kevin McCarthy cut with President Joe Biden on Wednesday. Now its fate rests in the hands of the Senate and Biden, who vowed to quickly sign it into law.
Cash management bills mature in a relatively short time frame, ranging from a few days to a year, according to the Treasury. They’re used to help manage the Treasury’s short-term financing needs.
Unlike Treasury bill auctions that occur on a weekly and monthly basis, cash management bill auctions are irregular, though not uncommon. For instance, last year the Treasury held more than 30 cash management bill auctions.
It is, however, quite unusual for the department to auction debt that matures in just one day. Over the past 25 years, the Treasury held six one-day cash management bill auctions.
Yields on cash management bills, which are determined by the auction process, tend to be higher than regular fixed maturity bills. On Thursday, the Treasury auctioned $25 billion of three-day cash management bills yielding 6.15%. That exceeds the yields almost all other Treasury bills are trading at.
Friday’s auction is open to the public with a minimum $100 bid and can only be purchased in $100 increments.
“There likely won’t be an issue for the Treasury to find bidders on the paper as maturities this short can fit well in money-market funds or other institutional buyers’ books that are looking to invest cash over the weekend,” said Charlie Ripley, senior investment strategist at Allianz Investment Management.
It’s likely that yields on the one-day bills will end up mirroring yields of other bills that mature on June 6, he added, “but any negative headlines overnight indicating bottlenecks with the legislature getting through the Senate will impact the auction price.”
Underscoring the uncertainty around the debt ceiling bill, the Treasury said plans to issue $65 billion of 13-week bills and $58 billion of 26-week bills on June 8 were “tentative.”
The announcements “are conditional on enactment of the debt limit suspension because Treasury forecasts insufficient headroom under the current debt limit to issue securities in these amounts on June 8,” the Treasury said in a statement on Thursday.