After The Student Loan Bailout

Should President Biden's recent pay-for-votes forgiveness of student loans make you nervous if you own government-guaranteed securities?

Although it seems highly unlikely, the student loan giveaway could create a slippery slope that leads next to mortgage forgiveness for veterans or some other protected or politically favored class, or some other form of federal debt relief. 

In that event, what would happen to so-called government-guaranteed securities backed by VA mortgages if the president declared that some or all of those loans were forgiven? Why not FHA loans, that are made to many of the same people who have student loans, i.e., those who supposedly have trouble paying back their loans or getting them in the first place because they have marginal credit or can’t afford a large down payment.

It wasn’t very long ago that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the twin secondary mortgage agencies, failed and were taken over by the government, leaving equity investors with shares worth next to nothing (both are currently trading at about 50 cents a share on the pink sheets).

Before they went bust during the global financial crisis, it was widely assumed that Fannie and Freddie were backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government, which turned out not to be the case (as that great legal scholar Felix Unger reminds us).

Assuredly, mortgages backed by the VA and FHA are different animals than those issued by Fannie and Freddie, but that doesn’t mean they’re invulnerable (they historically have high default rates). With interest rates on mortgages now north of 5% and a recession possibly looming, how long will it be before pressure grows on Biden to give the weakest homeowners a break?

Now it doesn't seem so far-fetched, does it? Today student loans, tomorrow home mortgages. How far do we want to take this? 

In the past we've heard some people say we should weaponize Treasury securities against our foreign adversaries, such as the Chinese, who own so much of our debt. Does this now become a little less of a fantasy and more of a possibility, as our relationship with Beijing continues to deteriorate and the president is in such a forgiving mood?

The actual dollar cost of Biden’s student loan giveaway has yet to be calculated, but it’s safe to say it’s a lot more than he and his defenders claim. Some analysts say the total cost will be about $1 trillion, which certainly seems reasonable. It could certainly add up to a lot more, if and when those saps who are still repaying their loans wake up and realize that they have indeed been duped and demand forgiveness, too, or simply stop paying. Continue reading "After The Student Loan Bailout"

Will China Nuke Its Own Treasury Portfolio?

George Yacik - Contributor - Fed & Interest Rates - China U.S. government debt

If you’re an investor in U.S. Treasury bonds, should you be worried that China may go nuclear? (No, not that kind of nuclear, the kind in the headline of a recent Reuters article about China’s supposed “nuclear option” to stop buying, if not outright sell, its huge holdings of American government bonds).

According to that report – speculation, really – China may consider retaliating against President Trump’s tough tariff talk by pulling its indirect support of the U.S. government, namely its holdings of about $1.2 trillion of Treasury securities. That makes it the largest foreign holder of that debt. Japan is a close second with $1.1 trillion, while Ireland (Ireland?) is a distant third with $328 billion. Altogether, $6.2 trillion of the U.S. government’s total debt of $20 trillion is held by foreign entities or about 31%. That would put China’s share at about 18% of the total foreign-held amount and less than 6% of the grand total.

In case you were wondering, the Federal Reserve holds about $4.5 trillion of the national debt or about four times what China owns. The Social Security Administration owns about $2.8 trillion.

So, is this something we really need to be worried about, even under the remote possibility that China would actually, in financial terms, cut off its nose to spite its face? Continue reading "Will China Nuke Its Own Treasury Portfolio?"