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Treasury Delays Decision On New Line Of Floating Rate Notes

By Howard Packowitz Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES CHICAGO -(Dow Jones)- The U.S. Treasury Department on Wednesday said it deferred a decision on whether to issue a new line of debt securities that may impact an emerging three-way contest among exchange operators in the huge interest-rate futures market. Agency officials said more time is required to study the impact of selling floating-rate Treasury notes alongside its traditional offerings of fixed-rate securities, surprising many bond traders and analysts who had expected the plans to be finalized. The Treasury is examining a move into floating-rate issuance to provide the government with more flexibility in paying off its massive debt, perhaps at a lower cost. The deferral also puts on hold a decision on how the Treasury might track fluctuating rates, a move being closely followed by exchange operators as two rivals challenge the dominant share in rate futures held by Chicago-based CME Group Inc. (CME). A move into floating-rate issuance would be most beneficial to NYSE Euronext (NYX), whose U.S. futures unit is launching a new range of rate futures. The head of the NYSE Liffe US unit said last week that the contracts would gain faster acceptance if the Treasury selects the General Collateral Finance, or GCF, repo index as the floating-rate benchmark. "We think it's going to be a success either way, no matter what Treasury decides," said NYSE Liffe US Chief Executive Tom Callahan said in an interview. An NYSE spokesman declined to comment Wednesday. NYSE still plans to launch the new product in July, the latest attempt to challenge CME Group Inc. (CME), which dominates rate futures trading. Bank and broker-backed ELX Futures LP also lists rate futures contracts. The GCF repo index calculates the average interest rate paid each day for "general collateral" repurchase agreements that help banks finance trading for Treasury bonds. Callahan said the GCF index is a "far more precise" hedging tool compared to the London Interbank Offered Rate and the U.S. federal-funds rate, Callahan said. Libor is the benchmark for Eurodollar futures listed at CME, NYSE Liffe US and the broker-backed exchange run by ELX Futures LP. For more than a year, international regulators and law enforcement officials have investigated allegations that some traders and bank employees have manipulated interbank rates. The British Bankers Association, which oversees Libor settings, is conducting its own investigation. Many traders have in recent years abandoned markets tied to the overnight effective fed-funds rate because the Federal Reserve has kept the rate near zero for a prolonged period. -By Howard Packowitz, Dow Jones Newswires; 312-750-4132; howard.packowitz@dowjones.com

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