The U.S. Treasury increased its estimate of federal borrowing needs for the three months through December after it ran down its stockpile of cash more than it previously anticipated.


The Treasury’s projections, released in Washington Monday, come as longer-term borrowing needs depend on the fate of two fiscal packages being finalized in Congress. U.S. debt managers expect to borrow $1.02 trillion in the October-December period, about $312 billion more than the $703 billion in net marketable debt issuance it anticipated in August.

The tallies are based on the assumption that lawmakers raise or suspend the federal debt limit. Congress last month boosted the ceiling by a limited amount, with the Treasury’s borrowing authority set to run out as soon as next month.

The Treasury trimmed its cash balance estimate for the end of December to $650 billion, below the $800 billion it previously projected. Officials have been constrained in building a bigger buffer by the maneuvers they’ve had to take to stay within the debt limit.

For the three months through March, the Treasury anticipates borrowing $476 billion through net new marketable debt issuance, assuming a cash balance of $650 billion at the end of the period.

The Treasury has since 2015 targeted a cash-balance buffer equivalent to about five days worth of expenditures. The Treasury’s cash balance is about $260 billion now, compared with an average of about $552 billion over the past five years.

Despite the uncertainties over the final contours of the Democrats’ $1.75 trillion social-spending plan being hashed out in Congress, primary dealers widely expect the Treasury on Wednesday to announce a scaling back of its behemoth quarterly sale of longer-term securities.

The department will publish its plans for next week’s so-called quarterly refunding auctions at 8:30 a.m. New York on Wednesday. Dealers predict the first cut in the coupon-bearing debt auctions since 2016.

“Debt-ceiling constraints continue to mean that quarter-end cash-balance assumptions are highly arbitrary,” Lou Crandall, chief economist at Wrightson ICAP LLC, wrote in a note ahead of the release of Monday’s estimates. “Our baseline forecasts assume that the Treasury’s borrowing constraints will be eliminated in the first half of December, which might give the Treasury enough time to push its cash balance back up to $500 billion by December 31.”

Jefferies analysts assume the Treasury will run out of its borrowing authority by the middle of December and exhaust all its cash by around the Christmas holiday weekend if Congress fails to act before that.


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