Infographic: The Countries That Own the Most U.S. Debt
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Which Countries Own the Most U.S. Debt?

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Foreign Countries Holding the Most U.S. Debt

The Foreign Countries Holding the Most U.S. Debt

In the international finance system, U.S. debt can be bought and held by virtually anyone.

In fact, if you hold a U.S. Treasury bond or a T-Bill in your portfolio right now, you are already a creditor to the United States government.

And as you can see in today’s chart from HowMuch.net, foreign countries like China and Japan can also accumulate large positions in U.S. Treasurys, making them significant players in the overall United States debt pie.

U.S. Debt: The Big Picture

The United States federal debt currently sits at $22 trillion, and it’s held by a range of domestic and foreign investors.

EntityDebt HoldingsShare of Total
U.S. Government and Federal Reserve$8.1 trillion36.8%
Foreign and international$6.3 trillion28.5%
Mutual funds$2.06 trillion9.4%
Pension funds$0.92 trillion4.2%
Banks$0.77 trillion3.5%
State and local governments$0.69 trillion3.1%
Other investors$3.18 trillion14.5%
Total$21.97 trillion100.0%

As you can see, about $8.1 trillion of debt is held by departments of the U.S. government or the Federal Reserve. This number would include securities sitting in retirement accounts of federal employees, social security trust funds, or any of the Treasurys sitting on the Fed’s balance sheet.

Next, another $7.6 trillion of debt is held by domestic investors. These are marketable securities held by banks, mutual funds, pension funds, insurance companies, and other investors.

While debt held domestically is mostly uninteresting, a bigger question mark is the $6.3 trillion of debt that is owned by foreign countries. After all, couldn’t a country like China “weaponize” its large holdings of Treasury securities as a form of retaliation in the ongoing trade war?

Foreign Owners of the Debt

Internationally, the biggest owners of debt include China and Japan, each with over $1 trillion.

RankCountryU.S. Debt HoldingsPercentage of Foreign U.S. Debt Held (%)
#1🇨🇳 China$1.11 trillion17.3%
#2🇯🇵 Japan$1.06 trillion16.5%
#3🇧🇷 Brazil$307 billion4.8%
#4🇬🇧 United Kingdom$301 billion4.7%
#5🇮🇪 Ireland$270 billion4.2%
#6🇨🇭 Switzerland$227 billion3.5%
#7🇱🇺 Luxembourg$224 billion3.5%
#8🇰🇾 Cayman Islands$217 billion3.4%
#9🇭🇰 Hong Kong$206 billion3.2%
#10🇧🇪 Belgium$180 billion2.8%
#11🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia$177 billion2.8%
#12🇹🇼 Taiwan$171 billion2.7%

Why does China hold so much of the foreign-owned U.S. debt?

China has accumulated Treasury securities over decades, as part of its strategy to keep its domestic currency from strengthening. Interestingly, the export-heavy nation has reduced its swath of Treasurys in recent months, selling off close to $200 billion of them.

Treasury Holdings China vs. Japan

Although China has $1.11 trillion of Treasurys left in reserve, the general consensus is that dumping all of them at once would destabilize the global financial system, having an equally negative effect on China as well.

That said, with foreign nations holding U.S. debt, such a risk will always exist.

Gimme Shelter

While it’s not surprising to see countries like China, Japan, or Brazil on the list of top foreign debt holders, what are places like the Cayman Islands, Luxembourg, or Ireland doing on the list?

Two simple facts help to explain these anomalies.

Firstly, despite having a population of just 60,000 people, the Cayman Islands is a hedge fund capital with over 10,000 funds domiciled there. Luxembourg makes the list for similar reasons, given that it is the European-based tax shelter equivalent.

Ireland, on the other hand, is the overseas headquarters for many U.S.-based tech giants like Facebook or Alphabet. Apparently, these corporations like to hold their overseas profits in highly-liquid Treasurys, rather than paying a repatriation tax to bring the cash back to American soil.

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Mapping The Biggest Companies By Market Cap in 60 Countries

Tech, finance or energy giant? We mapped the biggest companies by market cap and industry.

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Mapping The Biggest Companies By Market Cap in 60 Countries Share

The Biggest Companies By Market Cap in 60 Countries

Tech giants are increasingly making up more of the Fortune 500, but the world’s biggest companies by market cap aren’t so cut and dry.

Despite accounting for the largest market caps worldwide—with trillion-dollar companies like Apple and contenders including Tencent and Samsung—tech wealth is largely concentrated in just a handful of countries.

So what are the biggest companies in each country? We mapped the largest company by market cap across 60 countries in August 2021 using market data from CompaniesMarketCap, TradingView, and MarketScreener.

What are the Largest Companies in the World?

The world has 60+ stock exchanges, and each one has a top company. We looked at the largest local company, since many of the world’s largest firms trade on multiple exchanges, and converted market cap to USD.

CountryCompanyIndustryMarket Cap (August 2021)
USAAppleTechnology$2.5T
Saudi ArabiaSaudi AramcoEnergy$1.9T
TaiwanTSMCTechnology$594.5B
ChinaTencentTechnology$554.0B
South KoreaSamsungTechnology$429.7B
FranceLVMHConsumer Cyclical$414.3B
SwitzerlandRocheHealthcare$350.0B
NetherlandsASMLTechnology$322.6B
JapanToyotaConsumer Cyclical$251.6B
DenmarkNovo NordiskHealthcare$236.7B
IrelandAccentureTechnology$208.2B
IndiaReliance IndustriesEnergy$198.1B
AustraliaBHP GroupMaterials$191.7B
CanadaShopifyTechnology$185.7B
UKAstrazenecaHealthcare$182.0B
GermanySAPTechnology$174.6B
SingaporeSEATechnology$152.3B
Hong KongAIAFinancials$146.4B
BelgiumAnheuser-Busch InbevConsumer Staples$122.7B
SpainInditexConsumer Cyclical$108.3B
BrazilVALEMaterials$103.9B
RussiaSberbankFinancials$96.7B
ItalyEnelUtilities$93.7B
ArgentinaMercadoLibreConsumer Cyclical$89.5B
SwedenAtlas CopcoIndustrials$84.1B
South AfricaNaspersTechnology$74.1B
NorwayEquinorEnergy$67.9B
UAEEtisalatCommunication$58.7B
MexicoWalmexConsumer Staples$58.1B
IndonesiaBank Cental AsiaFinancials$54.8B
KazakhstanKaspi.kzFinancials$49.8B
QatarQNBFinancials$48.2B
FinlandNordea BankFinancials$48.0B
LuxembourgArcelorMittalMaterials$36.3B
AustriaVerbundUtilities$33.7B
ThailandPTT PCLEnergy$30.1B
ColombiaEcopetrolEnergy$26.7B
MalaysiaMaybankFinancials$23.7B
PhilippinesSM InvestmentsConsumer Cyclical$22.9B
KuwaitKuwait Finance HouseFinancials$21.9B
PortugalEDP GroupUtilities$21.0B
VietnamVinhomesReal Estate$17.1B
IsraelNICETechnology$16.9B
KenyaSafaricomCommunication$16.0B
Czech RepublicÄŒEZ GroupEnergy$15.8B
New ZealandXeroTechnology$15.8B
TurkeyQNB FinansbankFinancials$15.8B
HungaryOTP BankFinancials$15.6B
ChileEnel AmericasUtilities$14.3B
MoroccoMaroc TelecomCommunication$13.6B
PolandPKO Bank PolskiFinancials$12.6B
CyprusPolymetalMaterials$10.0B
NigeriaDangote GroupMaterials$10.0B
BahrainAhli United BankFinancials$8.6B
GreeceOTE GroupCommunication$8.4B
PeruCredicorpFinancials$8.0B
EgyptCommercial International BankFinancials$5.9B
IcelandMarelIndustrials$5.8B
OmanBank MuscatFinancials$4.2B
PanamaCopa HoldingsIndustrials$3.1B

Many are former monopolies or massive conglomerates that have grown in the public space, such as South Africa’s Naspers and India’s Reliance Industries.

Others are local subsidiaries of foreign corporations, including Mexico’s Walmex, Chile’s Enel and Turkey’s QNB Finansbank.

But even more noticeable is the economic discrepancy. Apple and Saudi Aramco are worth trillions of dollars, while the smallest companies we tracked—including Panama’s Copa Group and Oman’s Bank Muscat—are worth less than $5 billion.

Finance and Tech Dominate The Biggest Companies By Market Cap

Across the board, the largest companies were able to accumulate wealth and value.

Some are newer to the top thanks to recent success. Canada’s Shopify has become one of the world’s largest e-commerce providers, and the UK’s AstraZeneca developed one of the world’s COVID-19 vaccines.

But the reality is most companies here are old guards that grew on existing resources, or in the case of banks, accumulated wealth.

IndustryBiggest Companies by Country
Financials16
Technology12
Energy6
Materials5
Communication4
Consumer Cyclical4
Utilities4
Healthcare3
Industrials3
Consumer Staples2
Real Estate1

Banks were the most commonly found at the top of each country’s stock market. Closely behind were oil and gas giants, mining companies, and former state-owned corporations that drove most of a country’s wealth generation.

But as more economies develop and catch up to Western economies (where tech is dominant), newer innovative companies will likely put up a fight for each country’s top company crown.

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Technology

Which Companies Belong to the Elite Trillion-Dollar Club?

Only a few companies have broken the 13-digit market cap barrier to join the $1T+ club. Who’s a member, and who’s hot on their heels?

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Which Companies Belong to the Elite Trillion-Dollar Club?

Just a handful of publicly-traded companies have managed to achieve $1 trillion or more in market capitalization—only six, to be precise.

We pull data from Companies Market Cap to find out which familiar names are breaking the 13-digit barrier—and who else is waiting in the wings.

Footnote: All data referenced is as of August 17, 2021.

The Major Players in the Game

Apple and Microsoft are the only two companies to have shattered the $2T market cap milestone to date, leaving others in the dust. Apple was also the first among its Big Tech peers to ascend to the $1 trillion landmark back in 2018.

CompanyValuationCountryAge of company
Apple$2.48T🇺🇸 U.S.45 years (Founded 1976)
Microsoft$2.20T🇺🇸 U.S.46 years (Founded 1975)
Saudi Aramco$1.88T🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia88 years (Founded 1933)
Alphabet (Google)$1.83T🇺🇸 U.S.23 years (Founded 1998)
Amazon$1.64T🇺🇸 U.S.27 years (Founded 1994)
Facebook$1.01T🇺🇸 U.S.17 years (Founded 2004)

Facebook dipped in and out of the $1T+ club in July 2021, and continues its capricious movement. With just 17 years under its belt, it’s the youngest company ever to reach this valuation milestone—though not without some wild rides along the way.

State-owned oil and gas giant Saudi Aramco is the only non-American company to make the trillion-dollar club. This makes it a notable outlier, as American companies typically dominate the leaderboard of the biggest corporations around the world.

Who Else Might Join the Trillion-Dollar Club?

Companies with a market capitalization above $500 billion are also few and far between. Within this next list of six companies, the world’s most valuable automaker Tesla is another strong candidate to eventually join the Four Comma Club.

As per usual, analyst views on Tesla are quite varied. That said, some on Wall Street are predicting that Tesla might reach $3 trillion in market cap within the decade, owing to significant current and projected demand for electric vehicles (EVs) and driverless systems.

CompanyValuationCountryAge of company
Tesla$659B🇺🇸 U.S.17 years (Founded 2003)
Berkshire Hathaway$655B🇺🇸 U.S.182 years (Founded 1839)
TSMC$576B🇹🇼 Taiwan34 years (Founded 1987)
Tencent$537B🇨🇳 China23 years (Founded 1998)
Visa$515B🇺🇸 U.S.63 years (Founded 1958)

Visa, one of the pioneers of consumer credit in the United States, continues to innovate even 63 years after its founding. In attempts to expand the reach of its already massive payments ecosystem, Visa is experimenting with acquisitions, and even dipping its toes into cryptocurrency with some success.

Whether the next company to join the trillion-dollar club comes from the U.S., from the tech industry, or out of left field, it’s clear that it has some pretty big shoes to fill.

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