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Foreigners boost U.S. securities holdings as dollar slides

November 17, 2009 | 12:02 pm

There may come a day when fears about foreigners wanting to dump their U.S. Treasury securities will amount to something. But we clearly aren’t there yet, even as the dollar keeps sinking in value.

Net foreign purchases of Treasury bonds and notes in September totaled $44.7 billion, up from $28 billion in August, according to the government’s latest report on cross-border investment flows.

Total net foreign purchases of U.S. long-term financial assets (stocks, corporate bonds and government bonds) in September came to $55.7 billion, up from $37.5 billion in August.

Treasury-hamilton In the 12 months through September, foreigners bought a net $333 billion of Treasury notes and bonds. That was down 9.5% from the amount of net purchases in the 12 months ended September 2008, but still shows a robust appetite for U.S. debt. Good thing, too, given the record federal budget deficit.

The falling dollar has made U.S. securities cheaper for foreigners whose currencies are strong. But it also devalues their existing holdings.

Despite their rumblings of concern this year about the pace of U.S. borrowing and about the dollar, the Chinese remain the biggest single foreign owner of Treasury securities (including bonds, notes and bills), at $798.9 billion in September, Treasury data show. That total was up from $727 billion at the start of the year.

Japan is the No. 2 holder of Treasuries, at $751.5 billion, up from $626 billion at the start of the year.

Whom do we owe? The full list of the largest Treasury owners, by country, is here.

-- Tom Petruno

Photo: The Treasury Building in Washington. Credit: Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg News