Russian Holdings of U.S. Debt Dropped 20% in Past Year

Ali Meyer | March 19, 2014 | 4:33pm EDT
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Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Barack Obama at the G-20 Summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, Jan. 18, 2012. (AP Photo)

( - Russian holdings of U.S. government debt have dropped 20 percent in the past year, according to new data released by the U.S. Treasury Department.

Russia currently ranks tenth among individual foreign jurisdictions--ahead of Germany and France--for its ownership of U.S. government debt.

As of the end of February 2013, entities in Russia held $164,900,000,000 in U.S. Treasury securities. By the end of January 2014, Russian holdings of U.S. Treasury securities had dropped to $131,800,000,000—a decline of $33,100,000,000, or 20 percent.

The Treasury began including Russia in its monthly listing of Major Foreign Holder of Treasury Securities in January 2007, when entities in Russia held $8.5 billion in U.S. government debt. At that time, entities in Japan were the top foreign owners of U.S. government debt, with holdings of $627.7 billion. Mainland China was second with $401.0 billion; and the United Kingdom was third with $104.0 billion.

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At that time, foreign entities collectively held only $2.12 trillion in U.S. government debt.

In October 2008, President George W. Bush signed legislation creating the Troubled Asset Relief Program to bail out financial institutions. In February 2009, President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which aimed at stimulating the U.S. economy which was then in recession.

Since the end of 2008, the federal government’s debt has escalated massively as has foreign ownership of that debt. In August 2008, total foreign ownership of U.S. government debt was 2.6887 trillion. As of this January, that had risen to $5.8327 trillion--an increase of 117 percent.

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Whereas in January 2007, there were only three foreign jurisdictions (Japan, Mainland China, and the UK) where entities held $100 billion or more in U.S. government debt, as of January 2014 there were eleven. These included Mainland China ($1.2735 trillion); Japan ($1.2014 trillion); Belgium ($310.3 billion); Brazil ($246.0 billion); Taiwan ($179.1 billion); Switzerland ($173.7 billion); United Kingdom ($162.9 billion); Hong Kong, which is counted separately from Mainland China ($160.3 billion; Luxembourg ($135.3 billion); Russia ($131.8 billion); and Ireland ($108.8 billion).

The $5.8327 trillion in U.S. government marketable debt that foreign entities owned as of January was 49.4 percent of the U.S. government’s total of $11.80207 trillion in marketable debt. As of Jan. 29, the Federal Reserve also owned $2.243176 trillion of the U.S. government’s marketable debt.

The combined $8.075876 trillion in marketable U.S. government debt held by foreign entities and the Federal Reserve as of the end of January equaled 68.4 percent of all U.S. government marketable debt.

The full U.S. government debt as of the end of January was $17.293020 trillion. That included $506.073 billion in nonmarketable Treasury securities and $4.984877 trillion in “intragovernmental holdings,” which is money the federal government has borrowed from itself (i.e from the Social Security Trust Fund).

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