Dec 13, 2019

U.S. businesses have more debt than American households

Data: Federal Reserve; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Federal Reserve; Chart: Axios Visuals

U.S. businesses now have more debt than American households, according to data released by the Fed on Thursday.

Why it matters: It’s the first time corporate borrowing levels has clipped that of households in 28 years and "a potential warning sign for the economy as corporate investment softens," Bloomberg reports.

  • Lower-for-longer interest rates have fueled a borrowing frenzy, and Fed officials have warned about potential risks high corporate debt levels could pose to the record-long economic expansion.

Between the lines: Businesses investment "has historically climbed when borrowing rose."

  • But companies have pulled back on investing in things like new buildings and factories — which fuel economic growth — with CEOs citing trade war uncertainty and worries about a global growth slowdown as the reason.
  • Bloomberg notes companies in some cases used borrowed cash to finance buybacks and dividends.

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