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Treasury Securities -- T-bills


Treasury securities are government bonds issued by the United States Department of the Treasury through the Bureau of the Public Debt. They are the debt financing instruments of the U.S. Federal government, and they are often referred to simply as Treasuries or Treasurys. There are four types of marketable treasury securities: Treasury bills, Treasury notes, Treasury bonds, and Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS)

There are several types of non-marketable treasury securities including State and Local Government Series (SLGS), Government Account Series debt issued to government-managed trust funds, and Savings bonds. All of the marketable Treasury securities are very liquid and are heavily traded on the secondary market. The non-marketable securities (such as savings bonds) are issued to subscribers and cannot be transferred through market sales.



Marketable Securities

Directly issued by the US Government -- Treasury bill

Treasury bills (or T-bills) mature in one year or less. Like zero-coupon bonds, they do not pay interest prior to maturity; instead they are sold at a discount of the par value to create a positive yield to maturity. Many regard Treasury bills as the least risky investment available to U.S. investors.

Regular weekly T-Bills are commonly issued with maturity dates of 91 days (or 13 weeks, about 3 months), and 182 days (or 26 weeks, about 6 months). Treasury Bills are sold by single price auctions held weekly. Offering amounts for 13-week and 26-week bills are announced each Thursday for auction at 1:00 pm on the following Monday and settlement, or issuance, on Thursday. Offering amounts for 4-week bills are announced on Monday for auction the next day, Tuesday, at 1:00 pm and issuance on Thursday. Purchase orders at TreasuryDirect must be entered before 11:30 on the Monday of the auction. The minimum purchase amount is $1,000. (This amount formerly had been $10,000.) Mature T-bills are also redeemed on each Thursday. Banks and financial institutions, especially primary dealers, are the largest purchasers of T-Bills.

Like other securities, individual issues of T-bills are identified with a unique CUSIP number. The 13-week bill issued three months after a 26-week bill is considered a re-opening of the 26-week bill and is given the same CUSIP number. The 4-week bill issued two months after that and maturing on the same day is also considered a re-opening of the 26-week bill and shares the same CUSIP number. For example, the 26-week bill issued on March 22, 2007 and maturing on September 20, 2007 has the same CUSIP number (912795A27) as the 13-week bill issued on June 21, 2007 and maturing on September 20, 2007, and as the 4-week bill issued on August 23, 2007 that matures on September 20, 2007.

During periods when Treasury cash balances are particularly low, the Treasury may sell cash management bills (or CMBs). These are sold at a discount and by auction just like weekly Treasury bills. They differ in that they are irregular in amount, term (often less than 21 days), and day of the week for auction, issuance, and maturity. When CMBs mature on the same day as a regular weekly bill, usually Thursday, they are said to be on-cycle. The CMB is considered another reopening of the bill and has the same CUSIP. When CMBs mature on any other day, they are off-cycle and have a different CUSIP number.

Treasury bills are quoted for purchase and sale in the secondary market on an annualized percentage yield to maturity, or basis.

With the advent of TreasuryDirect, individuals can now purchase T-Bills online and have funds withdrawn and deposited directly to their personal bank account and earn higher interest rates on their savings.

General calculation for yield on Treasury bills is

Yield (%) = \left(\frac{\left(Face Value - Purchase Price\right)}{Face Value}\right) \times \frac{360}{Days Till Maturity} \times 100%

Treasury note

Treasury notes (or T-Notes) mature in two to ten years. They have a coupon payment every six months, and are commonly issued with maturities dates of 2, 5 or 10 years, for denominations from $1,000 to $1,000,000.

T-Notes and T-Bonds are quoted on the secondary market at percentage of par in thirty-seconds of a point. Thus, for example, a quote of 95:07 on a note indicates that it is trading at a discount: $952.19 (i.e. 95 7/32%) for a $1,000 bond. (Several different notations may be used for bond price quotes. The example of 95 and 7/32 points may be written as 95:07, or 95-07, or 95'07, or decimalized as 95.21875.) Other notation includes a +, which indicates 1/64 points and a third digit may be specified to represent 1/256 points. Examples include 95:07+ which equates to (95 + 7/32 + 1/64) and 95:073 which equates to (95 + 7/32 + 3/256). Notation such as 95:073+ is unusual and not typically used.

The 10-year Treasury note has become the security most frequently quoted when discussing the performance of the U.S. government-bond market and is used to convey the market's take on longer-term macroeconomic expectations.

Treasury bond

Treasury bonds (T-Bonds, or the long bond) have the longest maturity, from ten years to thirty years. They have coupon payment every six months like T-Notes, and are commonly issued with maturity of thirty years. The secondary market is highly liquid, so the yield on the most recent T-Bond offering was commonly used as a proxy for long-term interest rates in general. This role has largely been taken over by the 10-year note, as the size and frequency of long-term bond issues declined significantly in the 1990s and early 2000s.

The U.S. Federal government stopped issuing the well-known 30-year Treasury bonds (often called long-bonds) on October 31, 2001. As the U.S. government used its budget surpluses to pay down the Federal debt in the late 1990s, the 10-year Treasury note began to replace the 30-year Treasury bond as the general, most-followed metric of the U.S. bond market. However, due to demand from pension funds and large, long-term institutional investors, along with a need to diversify the Treasury's liabilities - and also because the flatter yield curve meant that the opportunity cost of selling long-dated debt had dropped - the 30-year Treasury bond was re-introduced in February 2006 and is now issued quarterly. This will bring the U.S. in line with Japan and European governments issuing longer-dated maturities amid growing global demand from pension funds. Some countries, including France and the United Kingdom, have begun offering a 50-year bond, known as a Methuselah.

TIPS

Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (or TIPS) are the inflation-indexed bonds issued by the U.S. Treasury. These securities were first issued in 1997. The principal is adjusted to the Consumer Price Index, the commonly used measure of inflation. The coupon rate is constant, but generates a different amount of interest when multiplied by the inflation-adjusted principal, thus protecting the holder against inflation. TIPS are currently offered in 5-year, 7-year, 10-year and 20-year maturities. 30-year TIPS are no longer offered.

In addition to their value for a borrower who desires protection against inflation, TIPS can also be a useful information source for policy makers: the interest-rate differential between TIPS and conventional US Treasury bonds is what borrowers are willing to give up in order to avoid inflation risk. Therefore, changes in this differential are usually taken to indicate that market expectations about inflation over the term of the bonds have changed. (Also see inflation derivatives).

The interest payments from these securities are taxed for federal income tax purposes in the year payments are received (payments are semi-annual, or every six months). The inflation adjustment credited to the bonds is also taxable each year. This tax treatment means that even though these bonds are intended to protect the holder from inflation, the cash flows generated by the bonds are actually inversely related to inflation until the bond matures. For example, during a period of no inflation, the cash flows will be exactly the same as for a normal bond, and the holder will receive the coupon payment minus the taxes on the coupon payment. During a period of high inflation, the holder will receive the same equivalent cash flow (in purchasing power terms), and will then have to pay additional taxes on the inflation adjusted principal. The details of this tax treatment can have unexpected repercussions. (See tax on the inflation tax.)

Created by the Financial Industry

STRIPS

Separate Trading of Registered Interest and Principal Securities (or STRIPS) are T-Notes, T-Bonds and TIPS whose interest and principal portions of the security have been separated, or "stripped"; these may then be sold separately (in units of $1000 face value) in the secondary market. The name derives from the notional practice of literally tearing the interest coupons off (paper) securities.

The government does not directly issue STRIPS; they are formed by investment banks or brokerage firms, but the government does register STRIPS in its book-entry system. They cannot be bought through TreasuryDirect, but only through a broker.

Nonmarketable Securities

Savings bond

Introduction

Savings bonds are treasury securities for individual investors. US Savings Bonds are a registered, non-callable bond issued by the U.S. Government, and are backed by its full faith and credit. About one in six Americans - more than 50 million individuals - have together invested more than $200 billion in savings bonds. However, all savings bond investments together cover only a minor portion - less than 3% - of the U.S. public debt.

Savings bonds have traditionally been issued as paper, or definitive, bonds. In October 2002 the treasury also began to offer electronic, or book, savings bonds through its online service TreasuryDirect. As of 2004, about a quarter of new savings bond investments are now made electronically.

There is no active secondary market for Savings Bonds (but they can be transferred if the taxes due on the accrued interest are paid). After a one-year holding period they can be redeemed with the Treasury at any time, making them very liquid. Since they are registered securities, possession of a savings bond is of no legal consequence; ownership is determined by the names in the Treasury's records, which are also printed on paper savings bonds. Consequently, savings bonds can be replaced if lost or destroyed.

Savings bonds do not have coupons. Interest payments are compounded or accrued, which means they are added to the value of the bond and paid out only upon the bond's redemption. Unlike other treasury securities, income from these interest payments does not have to be reported to the IRS as income until the bonds are cashed, which makes savings bonds tax-deferred investments. Savings bonds redeemed prior to five years forfeit the most recent three months' interest.

The treasury first offered the predecessor to savings bonds, called "baby bonds," in March, 1935. The bonds were issued in denominations from $25 to $1,000. They were sold at 75 percent of face value, and accrued interest at the rate of 2.9% per year, compounded semiannually when held for their ten-year maturity period.

EE Bond

Series EE savings bonds were introduced in 1980 to replace the series E bond. Paper EE bonds are sold at a 50 percent discount to their face value (from $50 to $10,000), and are guaranteed to be worth at least face value at "original maturity", which varies from 8 years to (presently) 20 years depending on issue date. Electronic EE bonds sold through TreasuryDirect are sold at face value ($25 and up); however, they are guaranteed to be worth at least double their face value at original maturity, so the difference is nominal. EE Bond interest rates vary depending on issue date, and for older bonds, yields on other Treasury securities. In May 2005, EE bonds were assigned a fixed rate at the time of purchase. The rate is currently 3.0% (as of January 2008). Series EE bonds issued in May 1997 or later earn interest every month, compounded twice per year, until they reach "final maturity" after 30 years; earlier EE bonds vary in interest accrual, but have the same 30-year final maturity. The interest on series EE bonds purchased since 1989 is exempt from federal and state taxes if it is used for education expenses, so long as the expenses are incurred in the same year as the bonds are redeemed. A buyer should beware though that there are very specific requirements for the bonds to be tax free and thus should consult the tax code before purchasing as college savings.

HH Bond

Series HH savings bonds originally sold in denominations from $500 to $10,000. Series E and EE savings bonds were able to be exchanged for them. The Series HH bonds pay interest semiannually and mature in twenty years. Series H Bonds mature in 30 years. Federal income tax on these bonds can be deferred until the bonds are sold or mature. These bonds have not been available for purchase from the treasury, or via exchange of other bonds, since September 1, 2004. [1]

I Bond

Series I Bonds were introduced in September 1998. They are sold at face value ($50 to $10,000 for paper bonds, $25 and up for electronic bonds) and grow in value with inflation-indexed earnings (similar to TIPS) for up to 30 years. I Bonds gain interest once a month, with interest being compounded twice per year. The composite interest rate has two components: a guaranteed fixed rate, which does not change over the 30 year period; and a semiannual inflation rate, which is adjusted twice per year. Even in times of deflation, the composite interest rate is guaranteed never to go below zero, meaning an I Bond's redemption value can never go down. The significant differences between series I bonds and TIPS are that I bonds retain all interest to compound inside the bond, are tax-deferred, and are protected from loss of value, while TIPS pay out a semiannual coupon, have a somewhat complex tax treatment, can lose value, and generally have a higher fixed rate.

Patriot Bonds

Since December 10, 2001, Series EE savings bonds purchased directly through financial institutions have been printed with the words "Patriot Bond" on them. Otherwise, the Patriot bond looks the same as the Series EE Bond, and Patriot bonds are used for financing general government debt, and not earmarked for any specific purpose. Bonds purchased from employers are not inscribed with the Patriot bond notation.

Zero-Percent Certificate of Indebtedness

The "Certificate of Indebtedness" is a Treasury security that does not earn any interest and has no fixed maturity. It can only be held in a TreasuryDirect account and bought or sold directly though the Treasury. Purchases and redemptions can be made at any time by transfers to or from a bank checking account, or by direct deposit of salary via payroll deduction. It is a place to store proceeds of coupon payments, matured securities, and small contributions until the time when the account holder is willing and able to buy a marketable Treasury security or a savings bond (for instance, to save up small amounts until the minimum purchase is reached). Many TreasuryDirect users have interest-bearing checking accounts and use them as their temporary holding place, but the C-of-I is more convenient in cases where the checking account does not earn interest.

If you want to reinvest a maturing TreasuryDirect T-Bill security, you should specify that the maturing value be placed in your C-of-I account. Then you can buy a new T-Bill that uses most of that money - the remainder can be transferred to a bank account. The redemption and the repurchase will occur on the same Thursday.

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