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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Mounting U.S. debt, and rising credit-card delinquencies, are creating what one big bond investor describes as a "cocktail of economic risk."

Why it matters: These realities run contrary to the overall narrative of a strong U.S. economy.

What's happening: The Federal Reserve warned that corporate America is taking on too much debt, Axios' Dan Primack writes.

  • Rising consumer debt is also a worry. U.S. banks are tightening their lending standards and raising rates on commercial loans and credit cards, according to Axios' Dion Rabouin and Courtenay Brown.
  • Credit card delinquency rates in Q1 hit the highest level since 2012, driven partly by a spike in overdue payments by people ages 18–29, according to the New York Federal Reserve.
  • U.S. national debt is $1 trillion higher than the previous record.

What they’re saying: "Junk bonds are flying out the door once again. Deeply indebted companies are borrowing even more to pay equity holders." (Bloomberg)

  • On the consumer front: "Borrowers think life is good and income is rising, and ... they overextend themselves," said James Chessen, chief economist at the American Bankers Association. "You tend to see more of that behavior" toward the end of an economic cycle.

What to watch: As companies struggle under their enormous debt loads, expect them to start looking to the high-flying stock market for rescue.

  • First up: Chewy, being spun out by its highly-leveraged parent, PetSmart, for much-needed cash.

Go deeper ... Warning: Signs of credit crisis grow

Go deeper

1 hour ago - Technology
Column / Tech Agenda

The new digital extortion

Shoshana Gordon/Axios

If you run a hospital, a bank, a utility or a city, chances are you'll be hit with a ransomware attack. Given the choice between losing your precious data or paying up, chances are you'll pay.

Why it matters: Paying the hackers is the clear short-term answer for most organizations hit with these devastating attacks, but it's a long-term societal disaster, encouraging hackers to continue their lucrative extortion schemes.

2 hours ago - Health

CDC mask guidance sparks confusion, questions

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The CDC's surprise guidance last week freeing the fully vaccinated to go maskless sowed plenty of concerns across the country— even earning the "Saturday Night Live" treatment for all the questions it spurred.

Why it matters: With plenty of Americans still unvaccinated — and without any good way to confirm who has been vaccinated — some experts worry this could put many at increased risk.

Updated 4 hours ago - World

In photos: Israel-Hamas aerial bombardments enter second week

A ball of fire and a plume of smoke rise above buildings in Gaza City as Israeli forces shell the Palestinian enclave, early on May 17. Photo: Mahmud Hams/AFP via Getty Images

Israel and Hamas continued aerial bombardments into Monday morning, as fighting entered a second week.

Why it matters: The worst violence in the region since 2014 has resulted in the deaths of 197 people in Gaza, ruled by Hamas, and 10 in Israel. 58 Palestinian children and two Israeli children are among those killed since the aerial exchanges began on May 10, Reuters notes.

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