What Are On-the-Run Treasuries?
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What Are On-the-Run Treasuries?

3 Min.

Treasuries are government bonds that are issued for a set period of time. The newest set of Treasuries are known as on-the-run Treasuries, while the previously issued ones are referred to as off-the-run Treasuries. When the government issues a new set of Treasuries for sale, the older ones become off-the-run. This means that they are still outstanding but are no longer the most recent issue.

Basics

The latest U.S. Treasury bonds or notes within a specific maturity define On-the-run Treasuries. In contrast, "off-the-run" Treasuries encompass previously issued and outstanding Treasury securities before the latest release. Media discussions on Treasury yields and prices typically center around on-the-run Treasuries.

How Do On-the-Run Treasuries Work?

The most actively traded Treasury security within its maturity is the on-the-run bond or note. Due to their high liquidity, on-the-run issues typically command a slight premium, resulting in a slightly lower yield compared to their off-the-run counterparts. Traders often capitalize on this price differential through an arbitrage strategy, selling or shorting on-the-run Treasuries while purchasing off-the-run equivalents.

Treasuries, being debts owed by the Federal Government, are considered a lower-risk investment option. Issued to generate revenue for government expenses, the latest batch of created and sold Treasuries assumes the status of on-the-run Treasuries.

On-the-Run vs. Off-the-Run Treasuries

The transition from on-the-run to off-the-run status occurs when a newer set of Treasuries is introduced for sale. For instance, if one-year Treasury notes are issued today, they become the current on-the-run Treasuries.

Subsequent Treasury note issuances designate the new on-the-run Treasuries, rendering the previously issued ones as off-the-run. This cycle persists with each new batch, where any group other than the latest run is considered off-the-run until maturity.

On-the-run Treasuries, being the most actively traded at any given time, command a higher initial cost and lower yield than off-the-run notes due to increased activity. This enhanced liquidity makes on-the-run options more accessible for buyers compared to off-the-run alternatives, leading to a prevalence of hedging-related investments rather than longer-term commitments.

Long-term investors, aiming for comparable returns or interest rates, may opt against purchasing on-the-run Treasuries at a premium. The price gap between on-the-run and off-the-run Treasuries, often termed the liquidity premium, reflects the higher cost of more liquid Treasuries. Investors not prioritizing liquidity may seek more cost-effective alternatives.

Pros and Cons of On-the-Run Treasuries

On-the-run Treasuries, being less abundant than off-the-run counterparts, constitute a limited portion of the Treasury landscape, with new issuances forming a small fraction. Consequently, on-the-run securities often command higher prices and yield lower returns.

These on-the-run securities, heavily traded in the secondary market, exhibit high liquidity. In contrast, liquidity for off-the-run Treasuries is comparatively lower, given their existing ownership by investors. Although on-the-run Treasuries carry a liquidity premium, investors seeking alternatives to the latest issues may find more favorable terms with off-the-run Treasuries.

Conclusion

Treasuries, government bonds with set periods, encompass on-the-run and off-the-run categories. On-the-run Treasuries, the latest issues, command higher prices and lower yields due to limited availability and increased liquidity. This liquidity premium, however, may not align with the preferences of investors prioritizing cost-effectiveness over immediacy. Off-the-run Treasuries, though less actively traded, offer more favorable terms for those seeking alternatives to the most recent issues. 

On-the-Run Treasuries
Treasury Bond
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