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Global debt to hit record $277 trillion by year end on pandemic spending splurge: IIF

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: Line workers spot weld parts of the frame on the flex line at Nissan Motor Co's automobile manufacturing plant in Smyrna Tennessee
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: Line workers spot weld parts of the frame on the flex line at Nissan Motor Co’s automobile manufacturing plant in Smyrna Tennessee

By Rodrigo Campos

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Global debt is expected to soar to a record $277 trillion by the end of the year as governments and companies continue to spend in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Institute of International Finance said in a report on Wednesday.

The IIF, whose members include over 400 banks and financial institutions across the globe, said debt ballooned already by $15 trillion this year to $272 trillion through September. Governments – mostly from developed markets – accounted for nearly half of the increase.

Developed markets’ overall debt jumped to 432% of GDP in the third quarter, from a ratio of about 380% at the end of 2019. Emerging market debt-to-GDP hit nearly 250% in the third quarter, with China reaching 335%, and for the year the ratio is expected to reach about 365% of global GDP.

“There is significant uncertainty about how the global economy can deleverage in the future without significant adverse implications for economic activity,” the IIF said in its report.

Total U.S. debt is on track to hit $80 trillion in 2020, the IIF report said, up from $71 trillion in 2019. In the Euro area, debt rose by $1.5 trillion to $53 trillion through September.

Among developing economies, Lebanon, China, Malaysia and Turkey have seen the biggest increases in non-financial sector debt ratios so far this year.

Emerging market governments’ declining revenues have made paying down debt “much more onerous” even amid record low borrowing costs across the globe.

Through the end of next year, some $7 trillion of emerging market bonds and syndicated loans will come due, about 15% of which is denominated in U.S. dollars, IIF said.

Officials from the Group of 20 last month agreed to extend the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) freeze on official bilateral debt payments to the first half of 2021 and said they would consider another six-month extension in April.

The global economy is forecast to shrink 4.4% this year and expand 5.2% in 2021 according to estimates from the International Monetary Fund as pandemic-induced lock downs and travel restrictions weigh on economic output.

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