Feb 10 (Reuters) - The Obama administration on Monday announced it would halt investments into two government pension funds in its latest steps to preserve borrowing capacity given the reimposition of the nation's debt ceiling over the weekend.
The moves are the latest to juggle the government's books and stave off a default for a few weeks.
Following is a closer look at steps the U.S. Treasury has taken, or could take, to help the nation keep paying its bills for a time in the absence of a decision by Congress to raise the debt limit.
STATE, LOCAL GOVERNMENT SECURITIES The Treasury on Friday suspended sales of State and Local Government Series securities, known as "slugs," which are special low-interest Treasury securities offered to state and local governments to temporarily invest proceeds from municipal bond sales. Slugs, which count against the debt limit, have been suspended several times over the last 20 years to avoid hitting the debt ceiling. Taking this action allows Treasury to issue less debt. CIVIL SERVICE RETIREMENT AND DISABILITY FUND On Monday, the Treasury suspended investments in the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund, a government employee pension fund, and said it would redeem a portion of the investments the fund held. It said the redemption could provide $50 million to $75 million in headroom under the debt limit.
GOVERNMENT SECURITIES INVESTMENT FUND It also suspended reinvestments in another federal employee pension fund known as the G-Fund. Normally the money market-like fund reinvests its entire balance daily into special-issue Treasury securities that count against the debt limit. The Treasury said halting the reinvestments would claw back about $175 billion in borrowing capacity. Once the debt limit impasse ends, the Treasury is required to make the fund whole with respect to any lost earnings.
EXCHANGE STABILIZATION FUND The Treasury could dip into this seldom-used fund earmarked to stabilize currency rates and access the dollar balance to avoid debt issuance. Created during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the fund was last used as a backstop to guarantee money market mutual funds during the financial crisis from September 2008 to September 2009. The Treasury would not have to restore lost interest earnings to the fund.
ISSUE MORE CASH MANAGEMENT BILLS The Treasury could cut issuance of longer-term government debt and rely more heavily on short-term cash management bills to gain more day-to-day control over debt outstanding. Cash management bills are typically issued for days, compared to normal Treasury bill maturities of four weeks to one year. However, this is unlikely to buy much time and officials are wary of making any major shifts in the Treasury's debt issuance calendar, which could upset markets.
SUSPEND SAVINGS BONDS Treasury secretaries in the past have halted sales of U.S. savings bonds to the public during debt limit impasses, but the Treasury in recent years has said that this would be of little or no benefit as it would not free up borrowing authority and would only prevent small amounts of new debt from being issued.
SWAP FEDERAL FINANCING BANK DEBT The Federal Financing Bank can issue up to $15 billion in debt on behalf of other government agencies that is not subject to the debt limit. So the Treasury could exchange FFB debt for other debt to reduce the total amount subject to the limit. However, the Treasury has said that this measure is also of little use because of the very small amounts of obligations available for exchange.
(Compiled by Reuters Washington economics team; Editing by Chris Reese)