WASHINGTON – The Treasury Department is detailing how it plans to borrow a record-breaking $2.99 trillion in debt this quarter which will include issuing for the first time since 1986 a 20-year bond.
The Treasury faces an unprecedented need for credit because of the trillions of dollars the government is spending to deal with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, which has resulted in the loss of millions of jobs.
And the nation is likely headed for a deep recession.
Treasury officials said Wednesday that the 20-year bond will be auctioned on May 20 with the goal of raising $20 billion. That will be followed by $17 billion auctions in June and July.
Senior officials believe the Treasury market will be able to handle the big increase in the government's borrowing needs.
Brian Smith, deputy assistant Treasury secretary for federal finance, told reporters that the Treasury in April has already raised $1.46 trillion of the $2.99 trillion in increased borrowing expected for this quarter without any disruption to the functioning of the Treasury market.
“The Treasury market remains the deepest and most liquid market in the world,” Smith said. “I remain very confident in the depth and liquidity of the Treasury market.”
The Treasury announced Monday that it planned to borrow $2.99 trillion in the April-June quarter, more than five times the previous quarterly borrowing record of $569 billion set at the height of the financial crisis a decade ago.
In addition to the 20-year bond auctioned on May 20, Treasury said it would hold a series of auctions next week, starting on Monday, to raise $96 billion by selling three-year and 10-year notes and a 30-year bond.
The $2.99 trillion in borrowing for just this quarter exceeds the $1.28 trillion the government borrowed in the bond market all of last year.
The huge sum is needed to pay for nearly $3 trillion in rescue aid that the government has unleashed in programs to support tens of millions of people now jobless, as well as shuttered businesses, with direct payments and loans.
In addition, the government needs to borrow to cover the shortfall in revenue that will occur because the Trump administration has delayed the deadline for tax payments this year from April to June.
The Congressional Budget Office is forecasting that the government will run a record deficit of $3.7 trillion this year, far above the $1 trillion-plus annual deficits recorded from 2009 through 2012 when the government was fighting the 2008 financial crisis and a deep downturn that followed.
The deficits would be even higher but the Federal Reserve has cut its benchmark short-term interest rate to a record low near zero and is buying trillions of dollars in government bonds and mortgage-backed securities to push long-term interest rates, which were already at record lows, even lower.
Private economists believe that the government has little choice but to spend the money now to prevent an even worse economic downturn.
Under Treasury's plans, the government will borrow $4.48 trillion this budget year, including a projected $677 billion in borrowing in the July-September quarter. The budget year ends on Sept. 30.
The CBO is projecting the U.S. economy will shrink by a record 40% at an annual rate in the current April-June quarter but the Trump administration is expecting a V-shaped downturn with the big decline followed by a sizable rebound in the second half of this year.