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The price of US Treasury bills reveals the true risk of default

Narratives in Perspective

On Thursday 05/25/23, Fitch Ratings placed the US Sovereign Debt Rating on a Credit Watch for Downgrade… Panic among traditional and social media outlets!!!!

By looking at actual risk market behavior and other typical heaven markets, such as the JPY FX, the story there was very different. That is not to say that market participants are not taking the debt-ceiling issue seriously, as pricing in one of the largest and most liquid markets in the world is in total disarray.

T-bill yields

US Treasury bills maturing before the unconfirmed and speculative X-date are currently trading at very low yields, then shooting up more than 100% for maturities within the first two weeks of June, and finally leveling off around 5ish % for longer maturities within one year.

Decoding price

Now, let's put this in perspective and think in terms of the price you are paying for something that is on the "verge" of collapsing. But first, for those who don't know how the UST bills market pricing works, I'll quickly explain below:

US Treasury bills are issued by the US Government to usually fund short-term operations and they all mature within 1 year or less. The main difference from longer term debt is that they do not pay periodic coupons; as such, they are issued at a discount to their par or face value.

Let's use an example: If you buy a UST-bill that matures in 1 year for US$95.24 and receive US$100, then in simple terms you receive a 5.0% yield or return for that year on your initial investments and that is it.

Looking for likes, shares and clickbait

T-bill pricing

Now, let's look at what is happening in the UST-bill market that is making everyone go bananas.

What the media and influencers are leaving out of their comments -- maybe on purpose or maybe out of ignorance -- is the mathematical phenomena of annualization, which causes a HUGE distortion in the annual representation of returns over a very short period.

Let's look at a simple example to drive the point home:

If I tell you that I made 2% on my investment or trading strategy in one day, that will be the equivalent to saying that I made 1,377% a year!!! And that is how financial predators take advantage of you. The math is not wrong, but annualization works by showing what would happen in a year if you were able to get that amount of return every single day for one full year with 365 days.

So, going back to the UST-bill market, a person would be NUTS to pay $99.81 dollars to receive $100.00 dollars in 11 days (3rd box down on image) if they really thought that the borrower would implode, disappear, or skip town!!!

When investing, always be aware of narratives that sell likes or create click baits.


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