CNBC Explains

TIC: The most important report you've never heard of

Is China dumping US debt a red flag?

The monthly Treasury International Capital report is one of those data pieces that usually means little to the typical investor. That's about to change.

More commonly called the TIC report, it's basically a summary of all the cross-border flows of money in government securities. The latest report was scheduled for release Friday at 4 p.m. ET. Unless you're a trader in those markets, the numbers don't really matter much.

However, China has made them matter.

After years of helping prop up U.S. debt through more than $1 trillion in purchases, China has begun to cut back on its holdings. This is particularly important as the national debt has exceeded $18 trillion, more than $13 trillion of which is held by the public.

Moreover, the U.S. bond market has long been considered the most liquid in the world and a reliable safe haven to park money in times of distress. Concerns have grown in recent months, however, that conditions could be changing and a crisis could be in the offing wherein a huge influx of sellers would come into the market without a commensurate level of buyers.