CNBC article discusses the growing concerns about the United States

The CNBC article discusses the growing concerns about the United States’ rising debt and budget deficits and their potential impacts on the economy and financial markets. For more details, you can read the full article on CNBC’s website [HERE]

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Here’s a detailed summary to help non-financial readers understand the key points:

 Rising Debt and Deficits

The U.S. federal budget deficit is increasing significantly. In 2023, it was projected to reach $1.7 trillion, up from $1.375 trillion in 2022. This rise in the deficit means the government needs to issue more Treasury bonds to finance its spending.

Investor Demand and Treasury Yields

A primary concern is whether there will be sufficient investor demand for the growing supply of Treasury bonds. If demand falters, the government might have to offer higher yields (interest rates) to attract buyers. Although bond yields have been rising, this is more closely linked to Federal Reserve policies aimed at controlling inflation than the sheer volume of new debt issuance.

Political Landscape and Fiscal Policy

The political environment in Washington plays a significant role in deficit management. Major changes to fiscal policy often occur when one party controls the presidency, the House, and the Senate. For example, a fully Republican government might focus on extending tax cuts, while a Democratic government might increase spending. A divided government tends to struggle with major fiscal legislation, which could unintentionally result in a smaller deficit due to built-in fiscal constraints like expiring tax cuts and spending caps.

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Long-Term Projections and Risks

Long-term projections indicate that U.S. debt is set to reach unprecedented levels. By 2033, the debt held by the public is expected to climb to 115% of GDP, surpassing previous records. Factors contributing to this increase include an aging population and rising costs for Social Security and Medicare. If current trends continue without significant policy changes, the debt could grow to 180% of GDP by 2053

Interest Payments and Economic Impact

The rising debt levels mean higher interest payments, which could consume a larger portion of federal revenue. Interest costs are projected to grow significantly, potentially exceeding $1 trillion annually by 2029, which would outpace defense spending. This shift could limit the government’s ability to fund other priorities and respond to future crises.

Geopolitical and Market Implications

High debt levels also pose geopolitical risks. A significant portion of U.S. debt is held by foreign entities, including countries like China. This external ownership can create vulnerabilities in financial markets and reduce the U.S.’s economic sovereignty. Moreover, a higher national debt can weaken the country’s global standing and make it more susceptible to economic and geopolitical pressures from other nations.


Overall, the article highlights the critical need for fiscal discipline and strategic policy-making to manage the growing debt and deficits. Without significant changes, the U.S. economy could face higher borrowing costs, reduced fiscal flexibility, and increased vulnerability to both domestic and international economic shifts.

We thought it would be valuable to get perspectives from Treasury professional Benjamin Defays, who are also Treasury Mastermind Board member.

Q: We would like to hear your opinion about the recent CNBC items issuing concerns about the rising debt of the US, surpassing the 100% GDP mark and being a big burden on the cash outflow (interest). We are seeing pressure on US Treasury yields lately, meaning the markets perceive them as higher risk or a diversification into corporate bonds. From the EU point of view, what are your thoughts?


Benjamin Defays, Senior Associate Vice President at Revantage, Comments

The recent surge in U.S. debt, now exceeding 120% of GDP, is a significant challenge that extends beyond American borders, impacting global financial markets and posing particular considerations for corporate treasury professionals in the EU. Another example illustrating the increasingly complex landscape treasurers must navigate through is marked this time by heightened volatility in U.S. Treasury yields and potential shifts in investment risk profiles.

The substantial increase in U.S. federal debt is generating concerns about higher default risks and calls for a reassessment of investment strategies, particularly concerning short-term investments and the use of money market funds.

Once again, the diversification of short-term investments into high-quality, liquid assets is critical. Money market funds, traditionally viewed as safe, must be scrutinized for their exposure to U.S. debt and associated risks. Given the rising yields and potential volatility in that market, it is prudent to consider increasing allocations to non-US denominated assets or other non-dollar denominated securities. This strategy can help mitigate currency and interest rate risks, ensuring more stability in the investment portfolio.

On one hand, active and diverse liquidity management strategies will be essential in this environment. Treasurers should consider laddering maturities to balance liquidity needs with yield optimization. Maintaining a mix of short-term investments with varying maturity dates can provide flexibility and protect against sudden market shifts. 
On the other hand, keeping a close watch on central bank policies is even more vital. The ECB and U.S. Federal Reserve’s upcoming decisions will be influenced by this unstable situation, which will in turn affect interest rates and liquidity conditions. Understanding these policies will aid in making informed decisions about investment, currency exposure, and interest rate hedging. 

Furthermore, treasurers should stay informed about potential regulatory changes and fiscal policies that could affect global financial markets. The ongoing discussions about tax policies, government spending, and social security reforms in the U.S. could lead to market movements. Indeed, potential changes in U.S. corporate tax rates or new spending programs could influence bond yields and the overall risk environment.

It seems that the work of the corporate treasurer is not yet set to go into a comfort zone (and if you ask me, on a personal note, this is great news!). The elevated U.S. debt levels and the resultant market dynamics present a complex challenge for corporate treasurers. By being proactive, diversifying investments, actively managing cash, and staying informed about central bank policies and regulatory changes, treasurers can navigate this uncertain landscape. Adapting to these changes with a proactive and flexible approach will be key to maintaining financial stability and optimizing returns in the face of rising U.S. debt and its global repercussions.

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June 4, 2024

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