The U.S. debt ceiling comes into effect at the end of July, putting pressure on the Treasury to reduce its cash balance ahead of the deadline. That means more injections of cash into a financial system already awash with liquidity, a scenario that could further sink short-term rates and cause undue distortion in the overnight repurchase market.
WHAT IS THE DEBT CEILING?
The debt ceiling is the maximum amount the U.S. government can borrow, as directed by Congress, to meet its financial obligations. When the ceiling is reached, the Treasury cannot issue any more bills, bonds, or notes. It can only pay bills through tax revenues.
Congress previously agreed to suspend the limit through July 31, at which point the Treasury has only a few months of “extraordinary measures” before lawmakers must either raise the amount, or face consequences of technical default.
WHAT CAN THE TREASURY DO AHEAD OF THAT?
Run down its cash. It has a target cash balance of $450 billion at the so-called Treasury General Account (TGA) on July 31. As of June 9, the Treasury’s cash balance was $674 billion, data from financial research firm Wrightson ICAP, down from $1.8 trillion last October.