Fitch: Prime Funds' Transition to Government Progressing; Fed RRP Facility Key to Reform Plans
OREANDA-NEWS. Money fund managers have made significant progress transitioning prime funds into government funds following announcements of the strategic conversions in recent months, according to Fitch Ratings. In response to the SEC's money fund reforms, over the past few months managers highlighted more than 20 funds that will convert from prime to government, with an estimated $220 billion in assets under management. Prior to the conversion announcements these funds held $58 billion in government securities, but since then have transitioned $56 billion of their assets from prime to government, and have approximately $103 billion left to shift.
The movement of large positions from prime funds into government funds is set to impact the short-term markets, benefiting government securities while reducing demand for bank and corporate debt.
In converting their portfolios to government securities, the funds have primarily bought agencies, while shedding mostly bank commercial paper and certificates of deposit. The Fed's reverse repo program (RRP), which is collateralized by Treasuries and is also considered a government-backed repo, was also heavily utilized by prime funds converting to government.
The Fed's RRP facility features prominently in fund managers' reform-related strategies, a key component in decisions on fund mergers, prime to government conversions, and launch of new funds. With the supply of short-term government securities low compared to demand, a dynamic expected to worsen as demand increases further due to money fund reform and banking regulations, the RRP is an important source of supply for government funds whose assets are set to grow.
At the same time, the RRP is accessible only to certain very large money funds approved by the Fed, and the Fed has indicated it does not intend to add new counterparties. Therefore, maintaining access to the RRP is an important consideration when merging or converting funds to ensure that eligibility for the facility is not lost. For example, Federated has announced that it will merge two prime funds that are not eligible RRP counterparties into a third fund that does have access to the facility, although there may be other reasons for any particular fund action.
Access to the Fed's facility is particularly important for government funds, as it may confer a competitive yield advantage. Often short-dated Treasury and agency securities trade at lower rates than the RRP, so access to the facility can provide eligible funds with higher yields. From that perspective access to the RRP is less important for prime funds that can buy a broader set of securities at higher yields.