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THE ISSUES

Originally Published: 6/22/2009

MAJOR HOLDERS OF TREASURY SECURITIES
(In Millions of Dollars)


 
FFY
2005
FFY
2006
FFY
2007
FFY
2008
SUMMARY of
DEBT
Total Public Debt1
4,601,239
4,829,000
5,049,242
5,814,240
 
Public Issue Held by Federal Reserve Board2
733,438
762,595
774,913
484,486
 
Public Debt Securities
3,867,801
4,066,405
4,274,329
5,329,754
 
 
 
HOLDERS OF
DEBT3
 
United States
1,802,301
1,934,405
2,060,429
2,302,954
 
FOREIGN4  
Mainland China
252,200
342,400
395,600
652,900
Japan
687,300
639,600
581,900
582,000
United Kingdom5
182,400
207,800
265,000
357,200
Caribbean Banking Centers7
102,900
51,400
63,700
219,300
OPEC
54,600
104,400
126,000
187,600
Brazil
26,200
45,000
109,400
134,500
Luxembourg6
41,300
37,300
65,000
81,400
Russia
-
-
13,000
80,900
Hong Kong
48,100
49,600
55,700
65,200
Switzerland
37,500
29,800
30,900
61,200
Norway
33,400
-
-
50,500
Germany
63,500
52,900
44,200
42,900
Taiwan
71,800
65,000
52,700
39,100
Thailand
11,200
16,300
21,800
34,800
Mexico
35,000
39,900
32,700
33,100
Singapore
28,200
33,300
33,600
32,600
Korea
61,700
69,000
45,700
32,100
Ireland
10,800
20,800
12,500
29,000
Turkey
13,200
22,900
26,600
27,600
Canada
47,800
49,600
23,300
18,600
Egypt
-
-
-
15,000
Chile
-
-
-
14,900
Italy
15,900
14,500
12,900
14,000
Netherlands
13,900
15,800
19,800
13,000
India
14,500
10,500
9,600
12,200
Belgium6
16,200
17,100
11,200
12,800
Sweden
19,300
17,800
15,300
11,500
Poland
11,900
13,100
13,200
11,400
All others
129,900
132,200
132,600
159,500
Total Foreign Holders
2,065,500
2,132,100
2,213,900
3,026,800
 
TOTAL FOREIGN DEBT
2,030,700
2,098,000
2,213,900
3,026,800
 
PUBLIC DEBT SECURITIES
3,867,801
4,066,405
4,274,329
5,329,754
 


NOTE TO THE READER:
I have endeavored to get the most accurate numbers, but I found that this is an almost an impossible task. Numerous telephone calls to the U.S. Treasury Department and its Bureau of Public Debt and International Capital System resulted in various answers to questions. Why certain numbers on one table do not match to the same titled numbers on another table could not be explained. What is included or excluded in some numbers could not be explained. What should be included to get an accurate "Public Debt" amount was basically unknown. I have pieced together what I could, based on the information that was given to me, and highly footnoted everything. I encourage everyone who has a couple of weeks with nothing to do and a high tolerance for frustration to try to get the numbers themselves. ALSO: The entire system was changed in 2001 so attempting to get comparable numbers prior to that date proved far too frustrating. I'm sure we could go back and get something that had been reported prior to 2001, and I'm sure it would provide some interesting information, but it could not be placed in a table like this as it would probably result in comparing apples to oranges.

1 Source: U.S. Treasury report entitled "Federal Debt," Table FD-1. Reported numbers are for the end of each federal fiscal year, which is September 30. This does not include agency debt, which is incurred by U.S. agencies, such as the Farm Credit System, Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA), and Federal Home Loan Banks (FHLB). These debts are not backed by the full faith and credit of the United States as are public securities. However, it could be argued that the United States government would not let these debts go unpaid and would honor the debt should the agency go into default.

2 Source: U.S. Treasury report entitled "Ownership of Federal Securities," Table OFS-1. These are public securities that the Federal Reserve Banks are holding and are, therefore, not being held by the public. Therefore, I have removed this amount from the calculation. In addition, amounts called "Nonmarketable" were not removed from the equation. While these securities were not sold on the open market, they were sold through other arrangements and are held primarily by foreign governments.

3 The foreign holdings are from a U.S. Treasury Report entitled "Major Foreign Holders of Treasury Securities." These reports are done monthly. I was told that by taking the amounts reported for September of each year, I would have the end of the fiscal year numbers. In addition, I was told that it was reasonable to take the total Public Debt Securities, subtract the amount of foreign holdings, and assume that what was left is the amount of securities held by United States investors. I could find nothing to confirm these numbers. Also, these numbers include nonmarketable securities.

4 According to the Department of the Treasury, "the country attribution . . . is far from perfect, as the country-level information collected . . . can be distorted due to either chains of intermediaries involved in the custody or management of these securities or to lack of ownership information on bearer securities. The first problem arises when the foreign owner of a U.S. security entrusts the management or safekeeping of a security to an institution that is neither in the United States nor in the foreign owner's country of residence. For example, a resident of Germany may buy a U.S. security and place it in the custody of a Swiss bank. Normally the Swiss bank will then employ a U.S.-resident custodian bank to act as its foreign subcustodian for the security to facilitate settlement and custody operations. When portfolio surveys are conducted, information is collected only from U.S.-resident entities. Thus, the U.S.-resident bank, acting as the subcustodian of the Swiss bank, will report this security on the survey. Because the U.S. bank will typically know only that it is holding the security on behalf of a Swiss bank, it will report the security as Swiss-held. Among the ten countries with the largest holdings of U.S. securities on the most recent survey, five of them -- Belgium, the Cayman Islands, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom -- are financial centers in which substantial amounts of securities owned by residents of other countries are held by custody. Perhaps the greatest distortion in country attribution is reflected in the level of holdings attributed to Luxembourg, a country with an estimated gross domestic product of $27 billion in 2004 that is credited with holdings of $392 billion. The second country attribution is caused by the existence of bearer, or unregistered, securities. The owners of such securities do not have to make themselves known, and typically little or no information is available about them. Long-term bearer securities cannot be issued in the United States, but U.S. firms can and do issue such securities abroad." See Foreign Holdings 2004.

5 Includes the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

6 Includes the Bahamas, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Netherland Antilles, and Panama.

7 Prior to June 2002, the line for Belgium includes holdings for both Belgium and Luxembourg.

 

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