Global debt edged up in 2018, debt ratio little changed: IIF

April 2, 2019

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Global debt growth decelerated sharply in 2018, with about $3.3 trillion added globally compared with an increase of $21 trillion the previous year, the Institute of International Finance said in a report on Tuesday.

Debt ended the year at about $243.2 trillion from $239.9 trillion at the end of 2017, after hitting a nominal record high of $248 trillion at the end of the first quarter. The year-end figure was little changed when compared with gross domestic product globally, ending close to the 2017 figure at 317% of GDP, though “still very high by historical standards,” according to the report.

Among developed or mature markets debt grew 2.2%, but the ratio to GDP remained little changed at about 390%. However, the overall steadiness does not reflect increases in the ratio from Japan, France and Australia, while debt ratios fell in Ireland, the Netherlands and Portugal.

Debt grew in the United States by the most since 2007, but strong economic growth drove the debt-to-GDP ratio to its lowest level since 2005 – though it is still high at 326%.

Emerging markets’ debt grew at the slowest pace since 2001, adding about $1 trillion, or under 25% of the average increase in the five previous years. The debt-to-GDP ratio in emerging markets was also steady at around 212%.

Government debt in emerging markets rose to a record 49.7% of GDP, with the largest ratios coming regionally from Asia and Latin America.

“High levels of interest spending on public debt threatens productive allocation of public resources,” the report said, singling out Brazil, Lebanon and Egypt.

Emerging markets will see some $1.7 trillion in debt and loans come due this year, the most in the decade ending in 2023 according to the report.

(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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