Demand for short-duration Treasurys surged Wednesday, sending the yields on certain bills into negative territory, as investors rushed for the closest thing to cash.
NEW YORK — Demand for short-duration Treasurys surged Wednesday, sending the yields on certain bills into negative territory, as investors rushed for the closest thing to cash.
After the government bailed out the insurer American International Group and a money fund “broke the buck,” investors were worried about the riskiness of most assets.
A bad Lehman Brothers investment by the Reserve Primary Fund — the nation’s oldest money-market fund — failed to maintain assets of at least $1 for every dollar invested, called “breaking the buck.” It’s possible that was an isolated incident, said Axel Merk, portfolio manager at Merk Funds, but “in times of crisis, you sell first and ask questions later.
“Institutional investors realize that there is no such thing as safe cash other than T-bills,” Merk said. He said the repo, or repurchase, markets were completely seizing up, causing people to flee to safer short-term investments.
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The repo markets are temporary loan markets that are relied upon by banks, hedge funds and other investors to invest their extra money or borrow against collateral.
The yield on the 1-month Treasury bill was negative by late trading, and the 3-month Treasury bill also dipped below zero during the session. A negative yield shows that investors were willing to take a small loss on the security.
Longer-term debt saw less interest as investors snapped up short-term government securities.
In late trading, the benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose while its yield slipped to 3.41 percent from 3.49 percent late Tuesday. Yields move in the opposite direction from prices.
The 30-year long bond rose, while its yield slipped from 4.09 late Tuesday at 4.08 percent.
The 2-year note rose while its yield fell to 1.53 percent from 1.82 percent from late Tuesday.
Another historically safe-haven asset — gold — rose $70.10 to settle at $846.60 an ounce in the regular session. That was gold’s largest one-day percentage advance since 1999.