Bank of England Sells £750 Million of Bonds in First QT Auction

The Bank of England sold £750 million ($860 million) worth of UK government bonds from its quantitative-easing portfolio for the first time on Tuesday, as the once-largest buyer of gilts looks to trim its mammoth holdings.
The central bank said it received £2.44 billion of bids for the various short-maturity gilts it put up for sale, a bid to cover ratio of 3.26. The bonds are from the BOE’s asset-purchase facility, which accumulated close to £900 billion in government debt at its peak last December.
The move is aimed at reversing the QE program that helped prop up the economy through the global financial crisis and the pandemic. Under the program, the BOE bought bonds in financial markets to push interest rates to near zero, hoping that easier money would give investors confidence and help foster growth.
While QE kept a lid on market interest rates, Governor Andrew Bailey hopes that its reverse, dubbed quantitative tightening, can run in the background and leave the focus on the BOE’s benchmark lending rate as the main tool of managing monetary policy.
Play Video The impact on gilts was limited. UK five-year yields remained lower after the auction results, trading around 3.55%.
“With short maturity bonds holding up well versus their long-end peers, “the sales do not appear to have experienced many hiccups,” said Pooja Kumra, a rates strategist at Toronto-Dominion Bank.
Read more: BOE to Take Historic Step in Unwinding £838 Billion Stimulus
Excess Supply The BOE started paring back its government bond holdings in February when it agreed to allow maturing debt to roll off the balance sheet instead of being replaced. While the US Federal Reserve and European Central Bank also have QE programs, neither have started active sales yet.
The experiment comes at a delicate moment for the Treasury and BOE. Once the BOE’s planned sales are added to the government’s financing needs, investors will have to absorb the largest supply of UK bonds in history, according to the nation’s debt chief. Only weeks ago the central bank was buying bonds under its financial-stability mandate, with those securities held in a separate portfolio from its main gilt fund.
“The risk that the BOE faces is that QT is beginning at a time when there is going to be an increase in supply given the fiscal measures that have been announced,” Imogen Bachra, head of UK rates strategy at NatWest Markets, told Bloomberg Television.
The BOE’s £750 million of sales ...