Treasury Bill markets

Just like commercial bills which represent commercial debt, treasury bills represent short-term borrowings of the Government. Treasury bill market refers to the market where treasury bills are brought and sold. Treasury bills are very popular and enjoy higher degree o9f liquidity since they are issued by the government.

Meaning and Features of Treasury Bills:

A treasury bills nothing but promissory note issued by the Government under discount for a specified period stated therein. The Government promises to pay the specified amount mentioned therein to the beater of the instrument on the due date. The period does not exceed a period of one year. It is purely a finance bill since it does not arise out of any trade transaction. It does not require any ‘grading’ or’ endorsement’ or ‘acceptance’ since it is clams against the Government. Treasury bill are issued only by the RBI on behalf of the Government. Treasury bills are issued for meeting temporary Government deficits. The Treasury bill rate of discount is fixed by the RBI from time-to-time. It is the lowest one in the entire structure of interest rates in the country because of short-term maturity and degree of liquidity and security.

Types of Treasury Bills

In India, there are two types of treasury bills viz. (I) ordinary or regular and (ii) ‘ad hoc’ known as ‘ad hocs’ ordinary treasury bills are issued to the public and other financial institutions for meeting the short-term financial requirements of the Central Government. These bills are freely marketable and they can be brought and sold at any time and they have secondary market also.

On the other hand ‘ad hocs’ are always issued in favour of the RBI only. They are not sold through tender or auction. They are purchased by the RBI on top and the RBI is authorised to issue currency notes against them. They are marketable sell them back to the RBI. Ad hocs serve the Government in the following ways:

  • They replenish cash balances of the central Government. Just like State Government get advance (ways and means advances) from the RBI, the Central Government can raise finance through these ad hocs.
  • They also provide an investment medium for investing the temporary surpluses of State Government, semi-government departments and foreign central banks.

On the basis of periodicity, treasury bills may be classified into three they are:

  1. 91 Days treasury bills,
  2. 182 Days treasury bills, and
  3. 364 Days treasury bills.

Ninety one days treasury bills are issued at a fixed discount rate of 4% as well as through auctions. 364 days bills do not carry any fixed rate. The discount rate on these bills are quoted in auction by the participants and accepted by the authorities. Such a rate is called cut off rate. In the same way, the rate is fixed for 91 days treasury bills sold through auction. 91 days treasury bills (top basis) can be rediscounted with the RBI at any time after 14 days of their purchase. Before 14 days a penal rate is charged.

Operations and Participants

The RBI holds day’s treasury bills (TBs) and they are issued on top basis throughout the week. However, 364 days TBs are sold through auction which is conducted once in a fortnight. The date of auction and the last date of submission of tenders are notified by the RBI through a press release. Investors can submit more than one bid also. On the next working day of the date auction, the accepted bids with prices are displayed. The successful bidders have to collect letters of acceptance from the RBI and deposit the same along with cheque for the amount due on RBI within 24 hours of the announcement of auction results.

Institutional investors like commercial banks, DFHI, STCI, etc, maintain a subsidiary General Ledger (SGL) account with the RBI. Purchases and sales of TBs are automatically recorded in this account invests who do not have SGL account can purchase and sell TBs though DFHI. The DFHI does this function on behalf of investors with the helps of SGL transfer forms. The DFHI is actively participating in the auctions of TBs. It is playing a significant role in the secondary market also by quoting daily buying and selling rates. It also gives buy-back and sell-back facilities for period’s upto 14 days at an agreed rate of interest to institutional investors. The establishment of the DFHI has imported greater liquidity in the TB market.

The participants in this market are the followers:

  1. RBI and SBI
  2. Commercial banks
  3. State Governments
  4. DFHI
  5. STCI
  6. Financial institutions like LIC, GIC, UTI, IDBI, ICICI, IFCI, NABARD, etc.
  7. Corporate customers
  8. Public

Through many participants are there, in actual practice, this market is in the hands at the banking sector. It accounts for nearly 90 % of the annual sale of TBs.

Importance of Treasury Bills:

  • Safety: Investments in TBs are highly safe since the payment of interest and repayment of principal are assured by the Government. They carry zero default risk since they are issued by the RBI for and on behalf of the Central Government.
  • Liquidity: Investments in TBs are also highly liquid because they can be converted into cash at any time at the option of the inverts. The DFHI announces daily buying and selling rates for TBs. They can be discounted with the RBI and further refinance facility is available from the RBI against TBs. Hence there is a market for TBs.
  • Ideal Short-Term Investment: Idle cash can be profitably invested for a very short period in TBs. TBs are available on top throughout the week at specified rates. Financial institutions can employ their surplus funds on any day. The yield on TBs is also assured.
  • Ideal Fund Management: TBs are available on top as well through periodical auctions. They are also available in the secondary market. Fund managers of financial institutions build portfolio of TBs in such a way that the dates of maturities of TBs may be matched with the dates of payment on their liabilities like deposits of short term maturities. Thus, TBs help financial manager’s it manage the funds effectively and profitably.
  • Statutory Liquidity Requirement: As per the RBI directives, commercial banks have to maintain SLR (Statutory Liquidity Ratio) and for measuring this ratio investments in TBs are taken into account. TBs are eligible securities for SLR purposes. Moreover, to maintain CRR (Cash Reserve Ratio). TBs are very helpful. They can be readily converted into cash and thereby CRR can be maintained.
  • Source Of Short-Term Funds: The Government can raise short-term funds for meeting its temporary budget deficits through the issue of TBs. It is a source of cheap finance to the Government since the discount rates are very low.
  • Non-Inflationary Monetary Tool: TBs enable the Central Government to support its monetary policy in the economy. For instance excess liquidity, if any, in the economy can be absorbed through the issue of TBs. Moreover, TBs are subscribed by investors other than the RBI. Hence they cannot be mentioned and their issue does not lead to any inflationary pressure at all.( Recommended reading: Treasury bills and inflation control )
  • Hedging Facility: TBs can be used as a hedge against heavy interest rate fluctuations in the call loan market. When the call rates are very high, money can be raised quickly against TBs and invested in the call money market and vice versa. TBs can be used in ready forward transitions.

Defects of Trasury Bills:

  • Poor Yield: The yield form TBs is the lowest. Long term Government securities fetch more interest and hence subscriptions for TBs are on the decline in recent times.
  • Absence Of Competitive Bids: Though TBs are sold through auction in order to ensure market rates for the investors, in actual practice, competitive bids are competitive bids are conspicuously absent. The RBI is compelled to accept these non-competitive bids. Hence adequate return is not available. It makes TBs unpopular.
  • Absence Of Active Trading: Generally, the investors hold TBs till maturity and they do not come for circulation. Hence, active trading in TBs is adversely affected.

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