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Which Countries Hold the Most U.S. Debt?

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Which Countries Hold the Most U.S. Debt in 2022?

Today, America owes foreign investors of its national debt $7.3 trillion.

These are in the form of Treasury securities, some of the most liquid assets worldwide. Central banks use them for foreign exchange reserves and private investors flock to them during flights to safety thanks to their perceived low default risk.

Beyond these reasons, foreign investors may buy Treasuries as a store of value. They are often used as collateral during certain international trade transactions, or countries can use them to help manage exchange rate policy. For example, countries may buy Treasuries to protect their currency’s exchange rate from speculation.

In the above graphic, we show the foreign holders of the U.S. national debt using data from the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Top Foreign Holders of U.S. Debt

With $1.1 trillion in Treasury holdings, Japan is the largest foreign holder of U.S. debt.

Japan surpassed China as the top holder in 2019 as China shed over $250 billion, or 30% of its holdings in four years.

This bond offloading by China is the one way the country can manage the yuan’s exchange rate. This is because if it sells dollars, it can buy the yuan when the currency falls. At the same time, China doesn’t solely use the dollar to manage its currency—it now uses a basket of currencies.

Here are the countries that hold the most U.S. debt:

RankCountryU.S. Treasury HoldingsShare of Total
1🇯🇵 Japan$1,076B14.7%
2🇨🇳 China$867B11.9%
3🇬🇧 United Kingdom$655B8.9%
4🇧🇪 Belgium$354B4.8%
5🇱🇺 Luxembourg$329B4.5%
6🇰🇾 Cayman Islands$284B3.9%
7🇨🇭 Switzerland$270B3.7%
8🇮🇪 Ireland$255B3.5%
9🇹🇼 Taiwan$226B3.1%
10🇮🇳 India$224B3.1%
11🇭🇰 Hong Kong$221B3.0%
12🇧🇷 Brazil$217B3.0%
13🇨🇦 Canada$215B2.9%
14🇫🇷 France$189B2.6%
15🇸🇬 Singapore$179B2.4%
16🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia$120B1.6%
17🇰🇷 South Korea$103B1.4%
18🇩🇪 Germany$101B1.4%
19🇳🇴 Norway$92B1.3%
20🇧🇲 Bermuda$82B1.1%
21🇳🇱 Netherlands$67B0.9%
22🇲🇽 Mexico$59B0.8%
23🇦🇪 UAE$59B0.8%
24🇦🇺 Australia$57B0.8%
25🇰🇼 Kuwait$49B0.7%
26🇵🇭 Philippines$48B0.7%
27🇮🇱 Israel$48B0.7%
28🇧🇸 Bahamas$46B0.6%
29🇹🇭 Thailand$46B0.6%
30🇸🇪 Sweden$42B0.6%
31🇮🇶 Iraq$41B0.6%
32🇨🇴 Colombia$40B0.5%
33🇮🇹 Italy$39B0.5%
34🇵🇱 Poland$38B0.5%
35🇪🇸 Spain$37B0.5%
36🇻🇳 Vietnam$37B0.5%
37🇨🇱 Chile$34B0.5%
38🇵🇪 Peru$32B0.4%
All Other$439B6.0%

As the above table shows, the United Kingdom is the third highest holder, at over $655 billion in Treasuries. Across Europe, 13 countries are notable holders of these securities, the highest in any region, followed by Asia-Pacific at 11 different holders.

A handful of small nations own a surprising amount of U.S. debt. With a population of 70,000, the Cayman Islands own a towering amount of Treasury bonds to the tune of $284 billion. There are more hedge funds domiciled in the Cayman Islands per capita than any other nation worldwide.

In fact, the four smallest nations in the visualization above—Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Bahamas, and Luxembourg—have a combined population of just 1.2 million people, but own a staggering $741 billion in Treasuries.

Interest Rates and Treasury Market Dynamics

Over 2022, foreign demand for Treasuries sank 6% as higher interest rates and a strong U.S. dollar made owning these bonds less profitable.

This is because rising interest rates on U.S. debt makes the present value of their future income payments lower. Meanwhile, their prices also fall.

As the chart below shows, this drop in demand is a sharp reversal from 2018-2020, when demand jumped as interest rates hovered at historic lows. A similar trend took place in the decade after the 2008-09 financial crisis when U.S. debt holdings effectively tripled from $2 to $6 trillion.

Foreign Holdings of U.S. Debt

Driving this trend was China’s rapid purchase of Treasuries, which ballooned from $100 billion in 2002 to a peak of $1.3 trillion in 2013. As the country’s exports and output expanded, it sold yuan and bought dollars to help alleviate exchange rate pressure on its currency.

Fast-forward to today, and global interest-rate uncertainty—which in turn can impact national currency valuations and therefore demand for Treasuries—continues to be a factor impacting the future direction of foreign U.S. debt holdings.

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Visualizing Japan’s Top 25 Companies by Market Cap

Japan’s top 25 corporations are worth a combined $2 trillion.

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Graphic showing Japan’s 25 largest corporations.

Japan’s Top 25 Companies by Market Cap

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.

Japan’s top companies are worth a combined $2 trillion.

In this graphic, we use data from CompaniesMarketCap to list the country’s largest corporations, as measured by market capitalization as of Feb. 2, 2024.

Automaker and Electronics Company Lead

Japan is the third largest economy in the world after the United States and China, and also one of the top producers of manufactured goods globally.

The country’s largest company, automaker Toyota, has a market cap of over $273 billion. The company is the largest automobile manufacturer globally, producing about 10 million vehicles per year. It is also the 20th biggest company in the world.

In addition, the automaker is considered the most valuable brand in Japan, worth $53 billion.

RankNameSectorMarket Cap (USD)
1ToyotaConsumer Discretionary273,143,000,000
2SonyConsumer Discretionary121,276,000,000
3Mitsubishi UFJ FinancialFinancials112,989,000,000
4KeyenceTechnology108,077,000,000
5Nippon Telegraph & TelephoneCommunication Services106,295,000,000
6Tokyo ElectronTechnology87,707,456,525
7Fast RetailingConsumer Discretionary80,279,788,422
8Shin-Etsu ChemicalIndustrial79,917,463,493
9HitachiConglomerate74,758,274,959
10Mitsubishi CorporationConglomerate71,239,298,556
11KDDICommunication Services69,347,949,137
12Sumitomo Mitsui Financial GroupFinancials68,730,634,240
13NintendoCommunication Services66,761,374,986
14Itochu ShojiIndustrial65,654,901,787
15SoftBankFinancials63,807,211,511
16RecruitTechnology61,940,459,689
17Oriental LandConsumer Discretionary59,854,280,904
18Mitsui BussanIndustrial59,414,309,869
19Daiichi SankyoHealth Care58,176,818,863
20Chugai PharmaceuticalHealth Care57,498,589,104
21HondaConsumer Discretionary54,203,588,608
22Tokio MarineFinancials50,610,597,498
23Mizuho Financial GroupFinancials47,274,393,600
24DensoIndustrial47,119,375,583
25Japan TobaccoConsumer Discretionary46,744,684,688

In second place, Sony Group produces a variety of consumer electronics and entertainment products, including televisions, audio equipment, cameras, smartphones, and video games. The company also includes brands such as Sony Pictures and Sony Music, as well as a financial arm.

The list also includes Mitsubishi UFJ Financial (MUFJ), Japan’s largest financial group with nearly $3 trillion in assets, and Recruit, an HR company that owns the job search engine Indeed, as well as the employer review site Glassdoor.

Nintendo, a well-known brand outside of Japan, ranks 13th among the biggest Japanese companies.

At the bottom, Japan Tobacco is the company responsible for selling two well-known American brands, American Spirit and Camel, outside of the United States.

Most of the largest companies in Japan are in the consumer discretionary sector (24%), followed by financial firms (20%) and industrial groups (16%).

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