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As the Wall Street Journal reports in an article by Mark Whitehouse, “Number of the Week: $10.2 Trillion in Global Borrowing”:
$10.2 trillion: The amount of money advanced-nation governments will need to borrow in 2011
As the debts of advanced countries rise to levels not seen since the aftermath of World War II, it’s hard to know how much is too much. But it’s easy to see that the risk of serious financial trouble is growing.
Next year, fifteen major developed-country governments, including the U.S., Japan, the U.K., Spain and Greece, will have to raise some $10.2 trillion to repay maturing bonds and finance their budget deficits, according to estimates from the International Monetary Fund. That’s up 7% from this year, and equals 27% of their combined annual economic output.
Aside from Japan, which has a huge debt hangover from decades of anemic growth, the U.S. is the most extreme case. Next year, the U.S. government will have to find $4.2 trillion. That’s 27.8% of its annual economic output, up from 26.5% this year. By comparison, crisis-addled Greece needs $69 billion, or 23.8% of its annual GDP….
The Federal Reserve has committed to buy an added $600 billion in U.S. government debt over the next eight months. Demand from households has been very strong as U.S. consumers boost their savings rate. Tighter regulations could push banks to buy more safe assets such as U.S. Treasurys.
But as the IMF warned in a report this week, the chances that investors will balk at lending to governments “remains high for advanced economies.” That’s a highly undesirable outcome — picture a financial crisis in which governments can’t step in to help, because government finances are the problem. We can’t know how close we are to such an outcome, and the need to keep the recovery going would make cutting back now a risky move. Ultimately, though, we’re heading in the wrong direction.