Foreigners sold $77.35 billion in U.S. Treasury debt in December, the most recent month for which data is available. That's the largest outflow since the U.S. government started recording Treasury debt transactions in January 1978, data shows.

Expand chart
Reproduced from Deutsche Bank; Chart: Axios Visuals

Why it matters: U.S. demand for Treasuries has remained incredibly strong since late last year and in fact has increased as yields have fallen, meaning investors are being paid less to hold the debt.

Background: Since 2000, foreign buyers had been the main growing source of Treasury sales. That trend has reversed and American buyers, including banks, pension funds and households, have more than picked up the slack.

What to watch: That's unusual and the fact that yields remain near these particularly low levels (2.69% on the 10-year at press time) likely suggests investors are continuing to position for a downturn, despite the stock market's reversal.

  • Deutsche Bank Chief International Economist Torsten Slok notes that foreigners sold a total of $91 billion of U.S. stocks and bonds in December, with around 85% of that being U.S. government debt.

Despite this significant upward pressure on Treasury yields during the stock market rout (because selling leads to lower prices, meaning yields should rise), benchmark 10-year yields fell from 3.20% in November to 2.60% in December.

  • "This reveals how strong the domestic bid is from pension funds and banks for U.S. Treasuries at the moment," Slok said.

Go deeper

Updated 14 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Politics: The swing states where the pandemic is raging — Pence no longer expected to attend Barrett confirmation vote after COVID exposure.
  2. Health: 13 states set single-day case records last week
  3. Business: Where stimulus is needed most.
  4. Education: The dangerous instability of school re-openings.
  5. States: Nearly two dozen Minnesota COVID cases traced to 3 Trump campaign events
  6. World: Restrictions grow across Europe.
  7. Media: Fox News president and several hosts advised to quarantine.

Republicans and Dems react to Coney Barrett's Supreme Court confirmation

President Trump stands with Judge Amy Coney Barrett after she took the constitutional oath to serve as a Supreme Court justice during a White House ceremony Monday night .Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

President Trump said Judge Amy Coney Barrett's Senate confirmation to the Supreme Court and her subsequent taking of the constitutional oath Monday was a "momentous day," as she she vowed to serve "without any fear or favour."

  • But as Republicans applauded the third conservative justice in four years, many Democrats including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) warned of consequences to the rush to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ahead of the Nov. 3 election, with progressives leading calls to expand the court.
Ina Fried, author of Login
56 mins ago - Science

CRISPR pioneer: "Science is on the ballot" in 2020

Photo: "Axios on HBO"

In her three decades in science, Jennifer Doudna said she has seen a gradual erosion of trust in the profession, but the recent Nobel Prize winner told "Axios on HBO" that the institution itself has been under assault from the current administration.

  • "I think science is on the ballot," Doudna said in the interview.

Why it matters: That has manifested itself in everything from how the federal government approaches climate change to the pandemic.