Mainland China has lost its status as the largest overseas holder of the US debt to Japan as the recent decline in the renminbi’s FX rate and the strengthening yen have affected the value of the two nations’ respective Treasury note portfolios.
The yen’s status as safe haven asset as fiscal stimulus effort have attracted investment capital to Japan, resulting in stronger yen, whilst China, struggling with low factory-gate inflation and weak international demand for manufactured goods, had to decrease its holdings of the US debt. Japan, now the biggest foreign holder of US Treasury debt, held $1.13 trln worth of US bonds in October, whilst China’s holdings shrank to their six-year lowest at $1.12 trln, according to the data from the US Department of the Treasury. Beijing has been selling US bonds in order to alleviate the downward pressure on the renminbi’s FX rate stemming from lingering economic turmoil. Mainland China uses the dollars obtained from selling the Treasuries to buyback the renminbi, currently at its 8-year lowest in offshore trading.
Japan, however, had been selling Treasuries in early autumn, too, due to the uncertainty surrounding the US presidential election. The subsequent developments in the form of the election of Donald Trump and the plunge in Treasury bond value accompanied by the rising benchmark 10-year yield have proven selling Treasuries the right move, but the yen’s ongoing appreciation has made Japan the largest international US bond holder.