The Countries with the Most Monstrous Business Debts

Posted by Wolf Richter

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The debt of US nonfinancial businesses had already surged in recent years, but when the Pandemic hit, businesses went on a borrowing binge as the Fed has repressed interest rates to record lows even for the riskiest corporate borrowers.

These debts of nonfinancial businesses – including corporations and businesses that are not incorporated – jumped by 9.1% year-over-year to $17.7 trillion in Q4 2020, according to the Fed’s Financial Stability Report. This amounts to 82.4% of nominal GDP. The Fed has been ruminating in its financial stability reports about the risks posed by corporate debt.

These debts are from nonfinancial businesses and exclude banks, nonbank lenders, insurance companies, and other lenders because lenders borrow and then lend, and including their debts would lead to some double-counting.

But what is happening in the USA pales compared to what is happening in some other countries, such as the corporate tax havens and financial centers of Luxembourg, Ireland, and Hong Kong, and of course in China, according to the data released today by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) for Q4 2020. It leaves the USA in ignominious 22nd place!

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