When former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke first hinted at a possible tapering of bond purchases nearly a year ago, he triggered a rout in U.S. Treasuries that rocked financial markets around the world. Today the Fed is actually reducing its purchases of Treasuries, but many foreign central banks — including some in key emerging markets — are increasing theirs.

In 2013 foreign investors, including central banks and private investors, bought only $228.2 billion of Treasuries, increasing their holdings by 4 percent, according to numbers from Bloomberg based on Treasury International Capital (TIC) data. It was the lowest amount of foreign Treasury purchases since 2006. But in the first two months of this year, foreigners purchased $92.2 billion of Treasuries, more than a third of last year’s total, lifting their holdings by 1.6 percent in the process, according to Treasury Department data.

“Last year the main event was the talk about the Federal Reserve [tapering its quantitative easing] that generated a lot of volatility,” says Jens Nordvig, head of U.S. fixed-income research and global head of foreign exchange strategy for Nomura in New York. “Foreigners were selling bonds for a few months.” Emerging-markets central banks cut their Treasury buying as their accumulation of dollar reserves slowed last year. This too was related to the chatter over tapering. That talk depressed foreign investment in emerging markets, which meant less upward pressure on those local currencies, which in turn meant less need for emerging-markets central banks to sell their currencies for dollars.

“Normally the big currency accumulation in emerging markets came from trying to smooth the appreciation in their currencies when money was flowing in by intervening in the currency market,” says David Gilmore, a partner and economist at Foreign Exchange Analytics, a currency analysis service in Essex, Connecticut. Asian central banks had been the most active on this front, but central banks in Latin America did this too, he says.

“From May onward, you didn’t have an emerging-markets inflow,” says Priya Misra, head of U.S. rates strategy research at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in New York. Another factor weighing on foreign Treasury purchases last year was the winding down of the European financial crisis, which led foreigners to move into European debt instead of Treasuries, she says. Those moves reversed some of the flows of 2010-’11, when the eruption of the European debt crisis triggered a flight to safety in Treasuries. Finally, the reduction in the U.S. budget deficit meant that the government was issuing fewer Treasuries, which also curbed foreign demand, Nordvig says. The deficit shrank to $680 billion in the fiscal year that ended September 30, down from $1.1 trillion in the prior year.