Foreign holdings of US debt rose to $5.66 trillion

Martin Crutsinger, AP Economics Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Foreign demand for U.S. Treasury securities rose to a record level in February, indicating that international investors remain confident in U.S. debt despite budget wrangling in Washington.

The Treasury Department said Monday that foreign holdings of U.S. Treasury securities increased 0.3 percent in February from January to a record $5.66 trillion. It was the 14th straight monthly increase.

China, the top foreign owner of Treasury debt, increased its holdings 0.7 percent to $1.22 trillion. Japan, the second-larger holder, trimmed its holdings 0.6 percent to $1.1 trillion.

Overall demand kept rising despite sharp disagreements between Congress and President Barack Obama over tax and spending issues. Still, Congress approved a measure to temporarily suspend the borrowing limit until May 19. That has allowed the government to take on more debt while the debate continues.

The increase left total holdings 10.8 percent higher than a year ago. Out of the total foreign holdings, 72 percent is owned by foreign governments including foreign central banks.

After China and Japan, the third-largest foreign holder was group of five nations classified as Caribbean banking centers. The group, which includes the Bahamas and the Cayman Islands, raised its holdings 5.5 percent to $286.7 billion. Brazil, the next largest, increased its holdings 2.3 percent to $260 billion.