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THE ISSUES

Originally Published: 4/19/2018

MAJOR HOLDERS OF TREASURY SECURITIES
(In Millions of Dollars)

 
FFY
2016
FFY
2017
FFY
2018
FFY
2019
FFY
2020
SUMMARY of DEBT
Total Public Debt 1
14,168.00
14,665,000
     
Public Issue Held by
Federal Reserve Board 2
2,830,115
2,867,555
     
Public Debt Securities
11,337,885
11,797,445
     
       
 
 
HOLDERS OF DEBT 3
United States
5,182,785
5,474,945
     
FOREIGN 4
Mainland China
1,157,000
1,180,000
     
Japan
1,136,400
1,096,000
     
Ireland
270,900
310,600
     
Cayman Islands 5
262,100
267,600
     
Brazil
258,100
272,800
     
Switzerland
240,700
254,900
     
United Kingdom 6
227,200
237,400
     
Luxembourg
217,500
213,900
     
Hong Kong
189,800
194,700
     
Taiwan
189,300
183,900
     
India
122,700
145,100
     
Saudi Arabia 7
89,400
136,700
     
Singapore
101,300
125,200
     
Belgium
142,700
104,800
     
Russia
76,500
103,900
     
Korea
88,500
94,300
     
France
71,100
75,400
     
Canada
85,000
75,100
     
Germany
102,900
74,900
     
Thailand
49,900
70,800
     
Norway
56,800
64,100
     
Bermuda 5
64,300
62,600
     
Turkey
61,500
60,800
     
United Arab Emirates 7
63,800
54,300
     
Netherlands
52,200
47,500
     
Sweden
38,300
45,900
     
Australia
34,500
36,900
     
Mexico
47,700
40,500
     
Poland
33,500
37,300
     
Spain
39,500
38,100
     
Kuwait 7
-
38,000
     
Philippines
39,000
35,500
     
Italy
42,000
35,300
     
Israel
-
32,500
     
All others
503,000
475,200
     
Total Foreign Holders
6,155,100
6,322,500
     
           
PUBLIC DEBT SECURITIES
11,337,885
11,797,445
 
 
 
 

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.

Also, the most recent year will be in the order of the most securities owned.

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 sub-custodian 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 sub-custodian 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 Cayman Islands and Bermuda were previously included under Caribbean Banking Centers.

6 Includes the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

7 OPEC has been broken out into individual countries.

© The Issue Wonk 2006-2018

 

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