Connect with us

Markets

Charting the Rise of America’s Debt Ceiling

Published

on

Charting the Rise in America's Debt Ceiling

Can I share this graphic?
Yes. Visualizations are free to share and post in their original form across the web—even for publishers. Please link back to this page and attribute Visual Capitalist.
When do I need a license?
Licenses are required for some commercial uses, translations, or layout modifications. You can even whitelabel our visualizations. Explore your options.
Interested in this piece?
Click here to license this visualization.

Charting the Rise of America’s Debt Ceiling

Every few years the debt ceiling standoff puts the credit of the U.S. at risk.

In January, the $31.4 trillion debt limit—the amount of debt the U.S. government can hold—was reached. That means U.S. cash reserves could be exhausted by June 1 according to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. Should Republicans and Democrats fail to act, the U.S. could default on its debt, causing harmful effects across the financial system.

The above graphic shows the sharp rise in the debt ceiling in recent years, pulling data from various sources including the World Bank, U.S. Department of Treasury, and Congressional Research Service.

Familiar Territory

Raising the debt ceiling is nothing new. Since 1960, it’s been raised 78 times.

In the 2023 version of the debate, Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy is asking for cuts in government spending. However, President Joe Biden argues that the debt ceiling should be increased without any strings attached. Adding to this, the sharp uptick in interest rates have been a clear reminder that rising debt levels can be precarious.

Consider that historically, interest payments on the U.S. debt have been equal to about half the cost of defense. More recently, however, the cost of servicing the debt has risen, and is now almost on par with the defense budget as a whole.

Key Moments In Recent History

Over history, raising the debt ceiling has often been a typical process for Congress.

Unlike today, agreements to raise the debt ceiling were often negotiated faster. Increased political polarization over recent years has contributed to standoffs with damaging consequences.

For instance, in 2011, an agreement was made just days before the deadline. As a result, S&P downgraded the U.S. credit rating from AAA to AA+ for the first time ever. This delay cost an estimated $1.3 billion in extra costs to the government that year.

Before then, the government shut down twice between 1995 and 1996 as President Bill Clinton and Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich went head-to-head. Over a million government workers were furloughed for a week in late November 1995 before the debt limit was raised.

What Happens Now?

Today, Republicans and Democrats have less than two weeks to reach an agreement.

If Congress doesn’t make a deal the result would be that the government can’t pay its bills by taking on new debt. Payment for federal workers would be suspended, certain pension payments would get stalled, and interest payments on Treasuries would be delayed. The U.S. would default under these conditions.

Three Potential Consequences

Here are some of the potential knock-on effects if the debt ceiling isn’t raised by June 1, 2023:

1. Higher Interest Rates

Typically investors require higher interest payments as the risk of their debt holdings increase.

If the U.S. fails to pay interest payments on its debt and gets a credit downgrade, these interest payments would likely rise higher. This would impact the U.S. government’s interest payments and the cost of borrowing for businesses and households.

High interest rates can slow economic growth since it disincentivizes spending and taking on new debt. We can see in the chart below that a gloomier economic picture has already been anticipated, showing its highest probability since 1983.

Probability of a U.S. Recession based on Treasury Spreads

Historically, recessions have increased U.S. deficit spending as tax receipts fall and there is less income to help fund government activities. Additional fiscal stimulus spending can also exacerbate any budget imbalance.

Finally, higher interest rates could spell more trouble for the banking sector, which is already on edge after the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank.

A rise in interest rates would push down the value of outstanding bonds, which banks hold as capital reserves. This makes it even more challenging to cover deposits, which could further increase uncertainty in the banking industry.

2. Eroding International Credibility

As the world’s reserve currency, any default on U.S. Treasuries would rattle global markets.

If its role as an ultra safe asset is undermined, a chain reaction of negative consequences could spread throughout the global financial system. Often Treasuries are held as collateral. If these debt payments fail to get paid to investors, prices would plummet, demand could crater, and global investors may shift investment elsewhere.

Investors are factoring in the risk of the U.S. not paying its bondholders.

As we can see this in the chart below, U.S. one-year credit default swap (CDS) spreads are much higher than other nations. These CDS instruments, quoted in spreads, offer insurance in the event that the U.S. defaults. The wider the spread, the greater the expected risk that the bondholder won’t be paid.

Additionally, a default could add fuel to the perception of global de-dollarization. Since 2001, the USD has slipped from 73% to 58% of global reserves.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine led to steep financial sanctions, China and India are increasingly using their currencies for trade settlement. President of Russia Vladimir Putin says that two-thirds of trade is settled in yuan or roubles. Recently, China has also entered non-dollar agreements with Brazil and Kazakhstan.

3. Financial Sector Turmoil

Back at home, a debt default would hurt investor confidence in the U.S. economy. Coupled with already higher interest rates impacting costs, financial markets could see added strain. Lower investor demand could depress stock prices.

Is the Debt Ceiling Concept Flawed?

Today, U.S. government debt stands at 129% of GDP.

The annualized cost of servicing this debt has jumped an estimated 90% compared to 2011, driven by increasing debt and higher interest rates.

Some economists argue that the debt ceiling helps keep the government more fiscally responsible. Others suggest that it’s structured poorly, and that if the government approves a level of spending in its budget, that debt ceiling increases should come more automatically.

In fact, it’s worth noting that the U.S. is one of the few countries worldwide with a debt ceiling.

Click for Comments

Markets

Ranked: Top 10 Single-Day Market Cap Gains

Nvidia broke the record for the largest single-day market cap gains after adding nearly $250B on Feb. 22, 2024.

Published

on

The 10 Biggest Single-Day Market Cap Gains

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. tech stocks have led in terms of market cap gains, sometimes boosting their valuations by hundreds of billions of dollars in a single day.

In this graphic, we’ve ranked the largest single-day gains ever recorded, using data from Bloomberg.

Top 10 List

The top 10 list includes just 5 companies, and all are based in the U.S.

RankDateCompanySingle-day
Market Cap Gain
(USD billions)
1Feb 22, 2024NVIDIA$247.0
2Feb 2, 2024Meta$196.8
3Nov 10, 2022Apple$190.9
4Feb 4, 2022Amazon$190.8
5May 25, 2023NVIDIA$184.1
6Jan 28, 2022Apple$178.9
7Jul 31, 2020Apple$169.0
8Oct 28, 2022Apple$150.5
9Mar 13, 2020Microsoft$150.4
10Apr 26, 2023Microsoft$148.3

To put these massive gains into context, consider this: As of May 2023, the average market cap of an S&P 500 company was $30.4 billion.

Meta’s $197B Record Didn’t Last Long

On Feb 2. 2024, Meta set a new record for the largest single-day gain after reporting strong quarterly earnings, as well as announcing $50B in share repurchases and its first ever dividend payment.

This record lasted only 20 days, however, as Nvidia’s massive Q4 2024 earnings beat sent it to all-time highs. The firm is now nearing a $2T valuation, firmly placing it among the world’s most valuable corporations.

More on Nvidia’s Earnings…

Nvidia reported $12.3B in net income during Q4 2024, which is 769% higher than the same quarter last year. Revenues are also up 265% from last year, largely driven by demand for its AI chips like the H100 Tensor Core GPU.

Nvidia’s earnings have seemingly shifted the AI craze into another gear, boosting other chip stocks like AMD and Super Micro Computer (SMCI) to double-digit % gains for the day (Feb 22).

Continue Reading

Subscribe

Popular