National Debt Update: Who Owns It Now?


Tuesday December 13th, 2011   •   Posted by Craig Eyermann at 7:14am PDT   •  

As of the end of the U.S. federal government’s 2011 fiscal year on 30 September 2011, the United States’ total public debt outstanding was recorded to be approximately $14.790 trillion. From the end of the U.S. government’s Fiscal Year 2010, the amount of the U.S. national debt has increased by 9.1% in just one year, or $1.2 trillion.

The chart below provides a preliminary look at who the biggest holders of all the U.S. government’s public debt outstanding were as of 30 September 2011:

Preliminary Major Holders of U.S. Government Debt at End of FY2011

Source: Political Calculations

Comparing this new chart with ones we’ve previously featured, we’ve broken out the U.S. Federal Reserve’s holdings from the U.S. Individuals and Institutions category, reflecting the Federal Reserve’s massive purchases of U.S. Treasuries as part of its quantitative easing programs.

Overall, in the year from 30 September 2010 to 30 September 2011, the U.S. Federal Reserve increased its purchases of U.S. government-issued debt from $966 billion to $1,773 billion, an 83.5% year-over-year increase, as the Fed’s purchases of U.S. government-issued securities during the government’s Fiscal Year 2011 accounts for nearly two-thirds of the year over year increase in the U.S. national debt.

These figures for the Federal Reserve only include the value of securities issued by the U.S. Treasury or other federal government agencies. It does not include mortgage-backed securities, such as those issued by government-supported enterprises such as the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) or the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac).

Our look at who owned the largest shares of the U.S. national debt is only preliminary since the data for foreign nations will be revised at some time in 2012. When the numbers are revised, we would anticipate that China’s ownership share of the U.S. national debt will increase, while the United Kingdom’s share will decrease, which is largely due to the role of U.K. financial institutions as international intermediaries.

Data Sources:

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. Monthly Report on Credit and Liquidity Programs and the Balance Sheet, October 2011. Table 1. Assets, liabilities, and capital of the Federal Reserve System.

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. Monthly Report on Credit and Liquidity Programs and the Balance Sheet, October 2010. Table 1. Assets, liabilities, and capital of the Federal Reserve System.

U.S. Treasury Department. Major Foreign Holders of Treasury Securities. Accessed 6 December 2011.

U.S. Treasury Department. Monthly Statement of the Public Debt of the United States, September 30, 2011. Table III – Detail of Treasury Securities Outstanding, September 30, 2011.




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