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15 Biggest Holders of US Debt PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 25 January 2010 09:32
Biggest Holders of US Gov't Debt as of Nov 2009

1. Federal Reserve and US Intragovernmental Holdings

That’s right, the biggest holder of US government debt is actually inside the United States. The Federal Reserve system of banks and other US intragovernmental holdings account for a stunning $5.127 trillion in US Treasury debt. This is the most recent number available (Sept 2009), and is at an all-time high, rising in every reporting period since 2007. About a decade ago, the total government holdings were "only" $2.5 trillion.

2. Other Investors

With the most recent numbers from March 2009, this extremely diverse group includes individuals, government-sponsored enterprises, brokers and dealers, bank personal trusts, estates, savings bonds, corporate and non-corporate businesses for a total of $1.114 Trillion. Although the level of debt held in U.S. savings bonds has remained basically constant, the broad category of "Other" investors has nearly quadrupled since reaching a four-year low in December 2007.

3. China (Mainland)

The buzz word in the market for US debt is China. The world’s most populous country is also the largest and most important international buyer of US debt. From its all-time high in May 2009 of $801.5 billion, China's stockpile of Treasury sercurities has actually shrank by about $10.4 billion, with the biggest portion of this dip occuring between October and November 2009. Hong Kong, which is not included in China's total, holds an additional $146.2 billion.

4. Japan

Another major US trade partner, Japan holds a huge amount of the country’s debt, with a stunning $757.3 billion. As recently as August 2008, Japan held the more US debt than any other country, but currently holds the #2 spot, as far as foreign governments are concerned.

5. Mutual Funds

According to the Federal Reserve, mutual funds hold the fifth largest amount of US debt compared to any other group, although mutual fund holdings have diminished by more than $70 billion since December 2008. Including money market funds, mutual funds and closed-end funds, this group of investments manages approximately $694.5 billion of US Treasury securities.

6. State and Local Governments

US state and local governments have over a half-trillion dollars invested in American debt, according to the Federal Reserve. The level of investment has remained very stable over the past three years, moving within the range of $516.9 billion and $550.3 billion from 2006 to 2009, and although the amount has been increasing, the amount of holdings are off their highs.

7. Pension Funds

Pension funds control large amounts of money, reserved for personal retirements, and thus are obligated to make relatively safe investments. This group includes both private and local government pension funds, totaling $490.2 billion. The private pension fund category also includes US Treasury securities held by the Federal Employees Retirement System Thrift Savings Plan "G Fund."

8. United Kingdom

Britain currently holds $277.5 billion in US debt, but the country's investment has fluctuated dramatically throughout the past 2 years, currently at its all-time high the UK's holdings were as low as $55 billion in June 2008.

9. Oil Exporters

Big oil means big money... and big investment into US debt. Included in the group of oil exporters are Ecuador, Venezuela, Indonesia, Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Gabon, Libya, and Nigeria. The group combines for a total of $187.7 billion a level they have maintained for the past year.

10. Caribbean Banking Centers

The US Treasury identifies this group as institutions in the Bahamas, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Netherlands Antilles, Panama and the British Virgin Islands. Holdings are currently listed at $179.8 billion, up from $106.6 billion in June 2008, but off the group's high of $213.6 billion in March 2009.

11. Insurance Companies

According to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, insurance companies hold $162.2 billion in Treasury securities. This group includes property-casualty and life insurance firms.

12. Brazil

The South American economic giant has $157.1 billion in holdings, according to the Treasury. Brazil’s investment into US debt has been fluctuating slightly over the past two years, with current holdings testing a high of $158 billion from June 2008. The low holdings and a low of $126 billion in March.

13. Hong Kong

Breaking into the top 15 biggest holders of US debt is Hong Kong, whose holdings have surged nearly 50% in the last 6 months, from a level of $99.8 billion in June 2009 to $146.2 billion currently.

14. Despository Institutions

As of the third quarter of 2009 (the most recent numbers currently available), the Federal Reserve Board of Governors lists depository institutions as holding approximately $145.4 billion in US debt. This group includes commercial banks, savings banks and credit unions.


Russia's investment in US debt grew over 393 percent between January 2008 and March 2009(from $35.2 billion to $138.4 billion), but the country's investment in US debt has receded slightly since, and is listed at $128.1 billion as of November 2009. This is approximately at the same level it was in February 2009.

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