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Debt in smaller emerging market countries, which are now providing the majority of the world's growth, rose to a record high of $69 trillion in the first quarter, IIF reported.

Why it matters: EM debt has been growing at a breakneck pace so far this year, as global investors search for yield with developed market interest rates at or near all-time lows.

  • The lower rates in the U.S., Europe and Japan are pushing increasing demand for higher-yielding EM bonds, with yields on the U.S. benchmark 10-year Treasury note at the lowest since 2016, and many European and Japanese government bonds holding negative yields.
  • Increasingly countries with little to no track record and shaky fundamentals have been able to issue larger bond issues for extremely low rates.

What to watch: Net borrowing in so-called frontier markets — countries too small or underdeveloped to be labeled emerging, such as Zambia, Bangladesh and Tunisia — reached over $250 billion in 2018, bringing the total stock of FM debt to more than $3.2 trillion, according to IIF data. That was equal to 117% of frontier countries' GDP.

The big picture: This could become a problem for both the investors buying the bonds and the countries issuing them. The IMF and IIF both highlighted growing concerns about debt sustainability earlier this year, prompting calls for policy remedies including more transparency in lending to vulnerable countries.

Go deeper: The global debt binge begins anew

Go deeper

11 mins ago - Health

First cases of COVID-19 Omicron variant discovered in United Kingdom

People wearing masks walk in London on Nov. 25. Photo: Li Ying/Xinhua via Getty Images

Two cases of the new COVID-19 Omicron variant were detected in the United Kingdom over night, the U.K. Health Security Agency announced Saturday.

Why it matters: The discovery comes as the world scrambles to respond to concerns over the new variant, discovered in South Africa earlier this week.

Updated 57 mins ago - Economy & Business

Americans are super-sizing their holiday travel

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Americans are rushing back into holiday travel, and many are taking even longer trips now than they did before the pandemic began.

The big picture: After skipping Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings last year, many people are eager to maximize this year's celebrations with friends and family. And flexible remote working arrangements make that easier than ever.

Updated 57 mins ago - Energy & Environment

Pity the "green" car buyer

Expand chart
Data: IHS Markit Data; Note: Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

Americans are more open than ever to trading in their gas cars for electrified vehicles — but they're flummoxed by the confusing array of green options arriving in showrooms.

Why it matters: Getting up to speed on the differences among hybrids, plug-in hybrids and battery-electric vehicles will be a challenge for car buyers — and salespeople, too — as we transition away from gas-powered vehicles over the next decade.