The 5bps RRP hike created a wedge between the opportunity costs of 2a-7 money market funds (“MMFs”) and non-MMF cash investors that is setting the stage for a tectonic rotation. By August month-end around $1t in Treasuries and Agencies held by MMFs will mature and most of the proceeds will be reinvested into the RRP. The RRP is offering the same yield as bills but allows MMFs to conserve their WAM/WAL dollars for more attractive investments. As the same time, some non-MMF cash investors will be moving out of their 1bps MMF shares or 0% bank deposits and into slightly higher yielding bills. MMF portfolios are earning more from the 5bps RRP hike, but passing on virtually none of it to their investors. This makes 5bps bill yields attractive to non-MMF cash investors. At the same time, bill supply is shrinking as Treasury cuts issuance to stay under the debt ceiling. In this post we preview the two upcoming rotations created by the 5bps RRP wedge, and suggest that these forces will slowly push short-dated bills back towards 0%.
MMFs Move From Bills to RRP
With bills and agencies trading around the 5bps RRP offering rate, MMFs will roll most of their upcoming maturities into the RRP. At the same yield, MMFs prefer the RRP to bills/agencies because the RRP conserves their portfolio’s weighted average life (“WAL”) and weighted average maturity (“WAM”). MMF are highly regulated in the composition and maturity structure of their holdings. Two constraints are a 120 day limit on WAL and a 60 day limit on WAM, which act to limit the amount of duration a MMF can hold. MMFs usually use their “WAM/WAL dollars” to pick up extra yield along the curve, and would be wasting it on bills/agencies without any extra yield pick-up over the RRP. The RRP is offering the same credit quality, yield, and regulatory liquidity as bills but with a 1 day maturity.
MMF regulatory filings as of June month-end show around $1t in bills and agencies will mature by the end of August (excluding Treasury only funds, who can only roll into Treasuries). Some of the prime MMFs will try to roll into time deposits at LIBOR, and some of the government funds will be rummaging through short dated coupons as they roll down the curve for extra yield. But investment opportunities are scarce, so most of the money will rotate into the RRP. There’s already almost $800b in the RRP that would pounce at an opportunity to earn an extra basis point. A rough assumption of a 75% roll-over into the RRP suggests RRP participation of $1.5t by August month-end. Note that RRP counterparty limits are illusory, with recent Fed minutes already hinting at further increases.
Cash Investors Move From MMF to Bills
Some institutional investors will move out of Government MMFs into bills, which are higher yielding and more versatile. For most investors in Government MMF, the 5bps RRP hike never occurred and they are still receiving just 1bps. The Fed’s 5bps adjustment moved gross Government MMF portfolio yields up to around 7bps, but that may not even cover their operating costs. MMF management fees vary across the hiking cycle, with fees last cycle rising from a low of ~12bps when rates were 0% to ~40bps as the hiking cycle proceeded. The current implied management fees of around 6bps would be at 10 year lows and suggests that most Government MMF shares will yield 1bps for the foreseeable future.
Investors who just need a place to park their cash will be happy with 1bps, but larger investors will see that bills are yielding slightly more and reach for the extra bps. In addition to higher yield, bills have value as high quality collateral that can be pledged with minimal haircuts for financial transactions. Some investors holding 0% deposits at commercial banks will also be attracted into bills. The rotation into bills will be slower, but involves a large investor base that continues to grow via QE.
Two Reservation Prices
The 5bps RRP hike placed a wedge between RRP counterparties and non-RRP counterparties. RRP counterparties – the $5t U.S. MMF complex – will not invest in anything offering less than the 5bps RRP offering rate. (Note that the Foreign repo pool rate is set equal to the RRP, so foreign CBs have access to 5bps as well). Non-RRP counterparties – everyone else – faces reservation prices of 0bps in a bank deposit or 1bps in a Government MMF. In this context bill/agency yields have a ceiling of ~5bps, but a bias to move lower towards 0% as non-RRP counterparties rotate into bills/agencies.
The amount of dollars held by non-RRP counterparties is vast, global, and continues to grow each month from on-going QE. These include mutual funds, local governments, foreign investors, corporation treasurers etc. The great majority do not care for a few extra bps, but some will. A 5bps yield on pristine USD cash like collateral in a world of negative rates is attractive. Note that bills and agencies have historically often traded below the RRP. In addition, Treasury has begun to cut bill issuance to stay under the debt ceiling target. The cuts will continue until the debt ceiling is resolved, which can be quick but usually drags on for weeks. Increasing interest from non-RRP counterparties combined with declining bill supply might be enough to push short bills towards zero in the coming months.