Holders of the U.S. Federal Debt

A recent Daily Chart blog on The Economist's website includes an interactive graphic created by Congressional Quarterly that breaks down the U.S. federal debt by its various bondholders. As of the end of March, the total federal debt was 14.27 trillion dollars to holders of US Treasury securities. The two graphics below indicate these holders of US Treasury securities and the amount that they hold in billions of dollars. As the chart indicates, the three nations that hold the largest amount of US debt are China (with 1.15 trillion dollars), Japan (with 906.9 billion dollars) and the United Kingdom (with 333 billion dollars). It is important to note that this doesn't necessarily mean that the governments or central banks of these countries own the securities, but are simply the location of the securities. Additionally, about 4.61 trillion dollars of the federal debt is held by US government accounts, over half of which (2.61 trillion dollars) is held by Social Security trust funds. Who actually holds the federal debt has become relevant recently, as a government default has become a feasible possibility with the approach of the debt ceiling deadline (August 2nd). As a related Congressional Quarterly article discusses, an increase in the debt ceiling is necessary to prevent a default so that the government can continue to borrow in order to meet its financial obligations.
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