President Donald Trump's administration is touting the idea of Treasury bonds that won't pay off until after you're dead -- at a time when interest rates are near historical lows. The problem is, Wall Street doesn't think anyone will buy them.
The Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee, a panel of executives from firms like JPMorgan Chase (JPM) , Citigroup (C) , Goldman Sachs (GS) and BlackRock (BLK) , told government officials in a meeting Tuesday that demand is likely to be limited for a 100-year bond, known colloquially as a century bond.
The group left open the idea of floating a 50-year bond, though a century bond would probably fail "due to limited pension or insurance cash flows beyond 50 years," according to minutes of the meeting released Wednesday.
"While an ultra-long is most likely to be demanded by those with longer-dated liabilities, the Committee does not see evidence of strong or sustainable demand for maturities beyond 30 years," the minutes read.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs executive, has talked up the benefits of issuing a 50-year or 100-year bond, based on the notion that the government would be locking in low borrowing rates at a time when they're unlikely to go much lower. In recent years, countries including Mexico have sold 100-year bonds denominated in dollars, pounds and euros to do just that.
If Treasury abandons the ultra-long bonds, it would mark another instance where Trump's economic agenda has run headlong into the realities of governing faced by prior administrations. Recently, Trump backed away from his campaign pledge to label China a currency manipulator, partly because the designation wasn't supported by the Treasury department's own guidelines.
According to a recent report by Goldman Sachs analysts, the government previously sounded out the possibility of ultra-long-maturity debt in 2009, 2011 and 2014, only to be told that it would be very difficult to sell the bonds on a regular basis -- a longstanding Treasury Department principle for debt-management operations.
On April 14, the Treasury formally asked the advisory committee to provide feedback on whether the bond could sell - and at what interest rate.
It's a key question; typically new bonds are priced relative to already-trading securities of similar credit ratings and maturities. But with no 100-year U.S. government bonds currently outstanding, there aren't really any comparable notes.
At Tuesday's meeting, committee members essentially acknowledged they had no idea about potential pricing levels.
"The Committee recommended that further work be done to study these demand dynamics to get a better sense of where an ultra-long bond might price, which could be above or below the longest-maturity debt issuance based on the pricing of domestic ultra-long derivatives, ultra-long bonds abroad, and theoretical models," according to the minutes.