ICAEW chart of the week: UK gilt issues

1 May 2020: The unsung heroes at the Debt Management Office (DMO) have swung into action as the UK Government has started to burn through cash at an astonishing rate, as illustrated by the #icaewchartoftheweek.

Chart. Cash raised 2019-20: £10bn, £10bn, £10bn, £13bn, £8bn, £12bn, £12bn, £12bn, £10bn, £13bn, £12bn, £15bn. Cash raised 2020-21: April £58bn.

The DMO, the low-profile unit within HM Treasury responsible for the national debt, raised an astonishing £58bn from selling gilt-edged government securities in April, compared with an average of £11bn obtained each month in the financial year to March. The size and frequency of gilt auctions went from an average of £2.6bn from one auction a week in 2019-20 to £3.2bn from four auctions a week in April.

The scale of the challenge became apparent in March as the Government announced a series of eye-watering fiscal interventions, with the DMO going overdrawn by £18.5bn to keep the Government supplied with cash in advance of ramping up gilt auctions in April.

Fortunately, the DMO is able to finance the Government at ultra-low rates of interest at the moment, with auctions oversubscribed and yields on 10-year gilts at just over 0.3% during the course of April. If maintained, the incremental cost of the additional £384bn in public sector net debt in 2020-21 set out by the Office for Budget Responsibility in its coronavirus reference scenario would be less than £2bn a year.

A legacy of debt for future generations to deal with, but – at least for now – a relatively cheap burden to service.

This chart of the week was originally published by ICAEW.

ICAEW chart of the week: UK international reserves

21 February 2020: UK international reserves of £41bn analysed by currency.

UK international reserves: £149bn assets - £108bn liabilities = £41bn net. Euro £12bn, US dollars £13bn, Other currencies £6bn, Gold £10bn.

The UK’s official holdings of foreign government debt, central bank deposits, IMF Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) and gold are the subject matter for the #icaewchartoftheweek, being the foreign currency assets and liabilities used in monetary operations.

The UK Government and the Bank of England together held £149bn in foreign currency assets as of 31 December 2019, equivalent to approximately two months’ public spending or just under 7% of gross national income. However, these assets were offset by £108bn in foreign currency liabilities, comprising £59bn in net financial derivatives (currency forwards, interest rate and cross-currency swaps), £23bn due on repo transactions and £26bn in other liabilities.

Even though the official reserves are an extremely important tool used to help ensure the smooth operation of financial markets, provide confidence in the UK’s financial stability and (if needed) support the value of sterling, the net balance of £41bn is relatively small, with £12bn invested in the Euro, £13bn in the US dollar and £6bn in the Yen and other currencies, together with £10bn of gold.

This chart was originally published by ICAEW.