In spring, Russia sharply reduced its investments in Treasury obligations of the US Treasury: in April - by $ 47.5 billion, and in May - by $ 33.8 billion to an 11-year low of $ 14.9 billion, according to the data of the US Treasury. Thus, the country dropped out of the list of 33 largest holders of the US national debt. At the end of March, it was the 16th - then Russia held US $ 96.1 billion of state bonds. Now there are 33 countries in the list, China, Japan and Ireland are the top three ($ 1.18 trillion, $ 1.04 trillion and $ 301 billion, respectively) ).
The Central Bank in the comments is limited to the most general remarks. In June, its chairman, Elvira Nabiullina, explained to the State Duma deputies that the investments in the US national debt have been reduced by diversifying international reserves, taking into account all the risks - financial, economic and geopolitical. "Vedomosti" representative of the Central Bank said only that the bank publishes information on the management of foreign exchange assets with a half-year lag.
The maximum investment of Russia in the US public debt - $ 176.3 billion - fell in October 2010, in 2013 they exceeded $ 150 billion, but after the Ukrainian conflict and the introduction of sanctions from the United States began to decline. Reuters reported that immediately after the introduction of US sanctions in March 2014, the Russian Central Bank withdrew $ 115 billion from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and two weeks later returned. At that time, this amount was 23% of Russia's international reserves. The Fed and the US Treasury concluded that Russia is really afraid of freezing assets in the US, Reuters claimed, and began to monitor what sanctions will force the country to withdraw reserves.
Already in 2017, the Central Bank's investments in the US national debt, on the contrary, grew by $ 16.1 billion. Against the backdrop of the "super soft" monetary policy of the ECB and the simultaneous tightening of the Fed's policy, the regulator increased the share of dollar assets from 40.4 to 45.8 %, follows from the report of the Russian Central Bank. Total assets in foreign currencies and gold at the end of 2017 amounted to $ 437.8 billion.
Most likely, the decision to get out of the US public debt is connected with geopolitical risks, the latest statements of the US Congress make us wait for further escalation of sanctions, says Oleg Solntsev from CMAKP. Iran's international reserves froze at some point, he remembers, and this could be a safety net. If the Central Bank does not want to change the currency structure of reserves, you can invest in dollar deposits in European banks, adds Solntsev. Former deputy chairman of the Central Bank Oleg Vyugin explains the Central Bank's decision to invest against the backdrop of sanctions in other currencies - for example, in euros, the Swiss franc. The authorities are reducing investments in foreign assets to reduce the risk of their withdrawal or freezing, said on Wednesday and the first deputy chairman of the Federation Council's economic committee, Sergei Kalashnikov (quoted by RIA Novosti). This money remains in the pool of reserve funds of the Central Bank and can be directed to other projects, he said. The Central Bank and the Ministry of Finance in their policies take into account the risks of sanctions and thus minimize them, said VTB President Andrei Kostin in an interview with Rossiyskaya 24.
On the market, however, the current trend is reversed: rates on US government bonds are growing and investors are buying them, Vyugin said. In June, the Central Bank could completely eliminate the position in the debt securities of the United States, said Kirill Tremasov, director of the analytical department of Loko-Invest. But Vyugin notes that it is impossible to completely eliminate the position.