Sunday, April 12, 2009

China Slows Purchases of U.S. and Other Bonds

The New York Times - HONG KONG — Reversing its role as the world’s fastest-growing buyer of U.S. Treasuries and other foreign bonds, the Chinese government actually sold bonds heavily in January and February before resuming purchases in March, according to data released this weekend by China’s central bank.

China’s foreign reserves grew in the first quarter of this year at the slowest pace in nearly eight years. For the quarter, the reserves edged up $7.7 billion, compared to a record increase of $153.9 billion in the same quarter last year.

The main effect of slower bond purchases may be to weaken Beijing’s influence in Washington, by lessening the reliance of the U.S. Treasury on Chinese central bank purchases at its government bond auctions. Chinese officials from Premier Wen Jiabao on down have expressed growing nervousness over the past two months about their country’s huge exposure to America’s financial well-being.

Private investors from around the world, including the United States, have been buying more American bonds in search of a refuge from global financial troubles. This has made the Chinese government’s cash less necessary and kept interest rates low in the United States over the winter despite the Chinese pullback.

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