Foreigners sell Treasuries in May, buy record amount of US stocks

Foreign outflows from US Treasury totalled $27.7 billion, compared with a record outflow in April, but foreign investors purchased $79.7 billion of US equities in May

by Reuters
Foreigners sell Treasuries in May, buy record amount of US stocks
The US Treasury Department is seen next to an almost empty 15th Street in Washington DC in March. Investors have been pulling out of Treasury bonds and putting money into US stocks lately. Photo: Eric Baradat / AFP.

NEW YORK: Foreigners sold US Treasury bonds and notes for a third straight month in May, but bought a record amount of stocks, as well as corporate bonds, data from the US Treasury Department showed on Thursday, as investors drove a rally in risk assets.

Foreign outflows from the US Treasury market totalled $27.7 billion in May, compared with outflows of $176.5 billion the previous month. In April, Treasuries saw a record outflow of $299 billion.

At the same time, however, foreign investors purchased $79.7 billion of US equities in May, an all-time high. In April, foreigners sold $8.6 billion in stocks.

US corporate bonds saw an inflow for a third consecutive month of $13.6 billion, from an inflow of $10.94 billion the previous month.

"If you look at the transactions data, there was a pro-risk pivot in May," said Jon Hill, interest rates strategist at BMO Capital in New York.

"There was net selling of Treasuries, and a decline in agency buying, but net buying of corporate bonds and equities. It seems like some of the foreign private investors helped push that rally in May as the Federal Reserve's liquidity programs were kicking in," he added.

Benchmark US 10-year Treasury yields ended May at 0.64%, mostly, steady for most of the month, after hitting a record low of 0.318% in March.

Data also showed that Japan remained the largest non-US largest holder of Treasuries during the month, although its holdings declined to $1.26 trillion in May, from $1.266 trillion in April.

China's holdings of Treasuries, however, rose to $1.08 trillion in May, from $1.07 trillion in April. The country is the second largest non-US holder of US government debt.

Overall, foreign holdings of US Treasuries rose by about $80 billion in May to $6.86 trillion, after hitting an all-time peak of $7.066 trillion in March.

"We're finally getting a month of rebound Treasury inflows, after two months of selling," said Gennadiy Goldberg, senior rates strategist, at TD Securities.

"This shows that there had been some flows back to Treasuries. I think this was less safe haven in nature, but more redeploying assets to Treasuries after we saw a lot of cash-building going on during the pandemic," he said.

Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss.