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THE ISSUES

Originally Published: 2/25/2006

MAJOR HOLDERS OF TREASURY SECURITIES
(In Millions of Dollars)


 

 

FFY
2001

FFY
2002

FFY
2003

FFY
2004

SUMMARY OF DEBT

Total Public Debt 1

3,308,707

3,552,588

3,924,029

4,303,350

Public Issue Held by Federal Reserve Board2

559,636

628,414

654,593

698,207

Public Debt Securities

2,749,071

2,924,174

3,269,436

3,605,143

 

HOLDERS OF DEBT3

United States

1,756,871

1,732,574

1,806,736

1,774,343

FOREIGN4

 

Japan

292,900

373,800

491,200

698,800

Mainland China

72,000

104,700

147,100

209,400

United Kingdom5

41,500

76,600

72,300

68,000

Caribbean Banking Centers6

29,400

40,600

48,900

103,100

Taiwan

35,800

37,200

47,900

66,500

Germany

46,500

34,200

49,000

47,900

Korea

28,500

35,800

61,700

50,500

OPEC

42,700

52,400

40,400

57,300

Hong Kong

45,600

45,300

42,500

43,000

Canada

15,200

8,600

23,000

26,100

Luxembourg7

---

23,800

26,200

39,600

Switzerland

17,100

35,400

44,800

40,000

Mexico

16,200

25,400

24,500

34,000

Norway

---

---

---

24,200

Singapore

19,800

19,700

23,400

26,100

Brazil

---

12,100

11,300

16,300

France

24,000

23,000

19,500

22,000

Sweden

---

9,700

11,100

14,600

Belgium7

21,500

13,200

14,200

15,900

Italy

19,500

18,200

16,900

12,500

India

---

8,100

13,500

14,900

Netherlands

8,300

11,500

14,100

18,000

Turkey

---

12,400

19,100

16,900

Poland

---

---

10,000

10,300

Thailand

14,300

17,300

14,800

11,000

Ireland

---

8,700

15,500

14,600

Israel

---

12,900

12,100

12,500

Spain

16,700

15,400

14,600

---

Australia

---

8,800

8,700

---

All Others

184,700

106,800

124,400

116,800

Total Foreign Holders

992,200

1,191,600

1,462,700

1,830,800

 

TOTAL FOREIGN DEBT

2,749,071

2,924,174

3,269,436

3,605,143

 

shim


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.

 

© The Issue Wonk 2006-10

 

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