The U.S. Treasury on Wednesday decided it was time to update the public on how it gauges the size of the cash buffer it needs, in the wake of a series of questions on the matter.

Tucked in a quarterly statement on debt-issuance policy on Wednesday was a three-paragraph explainer on the Treasury's cash-balance policy. The process the department uses "often results in Treasury holding a cash balance above the minimum level necessary to meet its projected one-week-ahead cash need," the statement said.

Last year, the Treasury surprised some observers when it said it would have a notably larger cash balance on hand when a suspension of the federal debt ceiling expired. The department's $450 billion estimate compared with Wall Street strategists' anticipation of roughly $130 billion, based on what had happened in prior debt-limit suspension episodes.

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