It’s no secret that the United States is one of the top debtor nations in the world.
In fact, in absolute terms, it holds the notorious title of being the nation with the maximum debt. America’s gross federal debt is estimated at $17 trillion, followed by Japan. According to this Forbes report, US debt has ballooned by $10 trillion in the past decade.
Foreigners hold around 35% of US federal debt (about $5 trillion). (These are rough estimates, by the way, according to the official US Treasury website.)
So who are the top countries that hold American federal debt?
Here’s a chart you should see:
China accounts for a little more than 20% of the debt held by foreigners, holding a whopping $1.2 trillion in treasury securities. Japan is another big buyer of US treasury securities (debt), hoovering up .
Over the past 12 months, however, China has been trimming its pace of purchasing American debt. Between April 2013 and February 2014, China’s debt holdings increased by a marginal 1.8 percent, while displaying rather neurotic buying and selling behaviour throughout that period.
Meanwhile, Japan’s purchases increased by 9.5% over the same period, with purchases picking up in the second half of the period.
But the real surprise is Belgium, which bulked up its debt holdings by a whopping 82%.
Take a look at the chart below. It shows the trend in federal debt purchases by the top six countries over the past 11 months:
For a more closer look at what happened with Belgium, here’s one final chart. You can see the surge in purchases quite clearly: Belgium’s holdings of US treasury securities jumped to $341 billion from $285 billion between April and February.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering what the main picture is all about, it highlights a chocolate store in Belgium. The country is renowned for its chocolates.