On Friday, we reported that among the five “nuclear” options available to Beijing to retaliate against Trump’s latest $100BN in import tariffs, was the choice whether or not to sell US Treasuries. But what if Beijing did not want to unleash a full-blown market nuke, and instead was hoping for a targeted, EMP hit?
Then it would simply stop buying US paper, instead of dumping it outright; in the process it wouldn’t hurt the US too much – avoiding an angry response – but it would send a clear signal to the White House, whose fiscal spending plan will more than double net Treasury issuance this year from under $500BN to over $1 trillion, and which needs every possible marginal buyer of US paper, both domestic and foreign.
Which is precisely what a new report by SGH Macro Advisors claims.
According to the consultancy, a long-time favorite of macro hedge funds, Beijing has twice threatened deliberately targeted tit-for-tat punitive measures against the US to date: “first, in response to the Trump Administration’s threat of steel and aluminum tariffs, and second, in response to broader measures aimed at $50 billion of products that lie directly at the heart of Chinese technology transfers, intellectual property violations, and strategic, “Made in China 2025” plan.”
But even as US cabinet officials lined up yesterday to calm jittery equity markets, SGH says in a note released over the weekend that “China had already signaled an aggressive and potentially more ominous escalation in the developing trade wars to the White House”:
From what we understand, the Chinese government has halted its purchases of US Treasuries. Despite the direct encouragement, according to Chinese sources, by US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin for China to “stay put,” Beijing has apparently discontinued purchases of US Treasuries “for the past few weeks.”
Some more details from the note:
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