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What Are Treasuries?

Treasuries, or US Treasuries, refer to debt securities issued by the US government to finance its operations and programs. The securities are issued by the US Department of the Treasury and are considered to be one of the safest investments available in the financial markets, as they are backed by the full faith and credit of the US government.

How Do Treasuries Work?

The Treasury Department auctions off these securities to investors, who then lend the government money in exchange for regular interest payments and the return of their principal when the security matures.

When investors buy Treasuries, they are effectively lending money to the government. The government uses the money it raises from selling Treasuries to fund its operations, including infrastructure projects, social programs, and the payment of interest on its existing debt.

Treasuries are considered a low-risk investment option, as the US government is considered highly creditworthy and is unlikely to default on its debt obligations. They are often used as a safe haven asset during times of market volatility or economic uncertainty, and are also commonly used by institutional investors and central banks as a tool for managing risk and maintaining liquidity.

Treasuries are also highly liquid, meaning that they can be easily bought and sold on secondary markets.

Types of Treasuries

There are several types of US Treasury securities. Here are the most common types:

  1. Treasury Bills (T-bills): T-bills are short-term securities that mature in one year or less, with maturities ranging from a few days to 52 weeks. They are typically sold at a discount to their face value and do not pay interest, but are instead redeemed at their full face value at maturity.
  2. Treasury Notes (T-notes): T-notes are medium-term securities that mature in 2 to 10 years. They pay a fixed rate of interest every six months and are sold at face value.
  3. Treasury Bonds (T-bonds): T-bonds are long-term securities that mature in 10 to 30 years. They pay a fixed rate of interest every six months and are sold at face value.
  4. Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS): TIPS are securities that are indexed to inflation, with principal and interest payments adjusted based on changes in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). They are sold at face value and pay a fixed rate of interest every six months.
  5. Floating Rate Notes (FRNs): FRNs are securities that have a variable interest rate that is reset periodically based on a specified index, such as the 3-month LIBOR rate.
  6. Cash Management Bills (CMBs): CMBs are short-term securities that are issued on an as-needed basis to fund the US government’s short-term cash needs. They have maturities of less than one year and are sold at a discount to their face value.
  7. Strips: Strips are zero-coupon bonds that are created by separating the principal and interest payments of a Treasury security into separate securities. They are sold at a discount to their face value and do not pay interest, but are instead redeemed at their full face value at maturity.
  8. I Bonds: I Bonds are a type of Treasury security that can be purchased by individuals. They are similar to regular Treasuries in that they are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government, but they also offer an inflation-protection feature. This means that when inflation rises, the value of the bond increases as well. iBonds are considered to be a safe investment, as they are backed by the U.S. government, but there is still some risk involved.

Difference Between Treasuries and Stocks

Stocks and Treasuries are two different types of investments that operate in different ways and have different risk profiles.

Here are some key differences between stocks and Treasuries:

  1. Ownership: When you buy stocks, you become a partial owner of a company, with the potential for capital gains (if the stock price goes up) and dividends (if the company pays them). With Treasuries, you are lending money to the US government and receive regular interest payments.
  2. Risk: Stocks are generally considered to be riskier than Treasuries, as their prices can fluctuate significantly based on market conditions, economic indicators, and company-specific news. Treasuries, on the other hand, are considered to be among the safest investments available, as they are backed by the full faith and credit of the US government.
  3. Return: Stocks have the potential for higher returns than Treasuries over the long term, as the value of a company can grow and increase the value of the stock. However, stocks can also experience significant losses, while Treasuries offer a guaranteed rate of return.
  4. Liquidity: Stocks are generally more liquid than Treasuries, meaning that they can be bought and sold more easily and quickly. Treasuries are less liquid, especially for longer-term maturities.
  5. Purpose: Stocks are typically used as a way to grow wealth and build long-term financial goals, while Treasuries are often used as a way to preserve capital and provide a reliable income stream.
  6. Taxes: While both types of investments have their own tax implications, Treasuries are generally considered to be more tax-efficient, as they generate a steady income stream that is exempt from some state and local taxes.

Stocks and Treasuries are very different investments, and the decision to invest in one or the other (or both) will depend on an individual’s risk tolerance, investment goals, and financial situation.

The Bottom Line

Overall, Treasuries can provide a valuable source of stability, income, and diversification for an investment portfolio. They are particularly attractive for investors who prioritize safety and reliability over higher returns, or who want to balance out riskier investments in their portfolio.


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