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Global sovereign debt to rise almost 10% to new high in 2022 – Janus Henderson

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Euro, Hong Kong dollar, U.S. dollar, Japanese yen, pound and Chinese 100 yuan banknotes are seen in this picture illustration, January 21, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee

LONDON (Reuters) – Global government debt is set to rise 9.5% this year to a record $71.6 trillion, driven by the United States, Japan and China, asset management firm Janus Henderson said in a report on Wednesday.

Governments across the world have ramped up borrowing since the COVID-19 pandemic erupted two years ago, as they tried to shield their economies from the fallout.

That took global government debt to a record $65.4 trillion in 2021, compared to $52.2 trillion in January 2020, Janus Henderson said. China’s debt rose the fastest and by the most in cash terms, up a fifth or by $650 billion last year, it added.

Among large, developed economies, Germany saw the biggest increase in percentage terms, with its debt rising by 15%, almost twice the average global pace.

According to Janus Henderson, government debt has tripled in the past two decades but a mitigating factor was low debt servicing costs.

With the effective interest rate on all the world’s government debt slipping to 1.6% last year from 1.8% in 2020, debt servicing costs fell to $1.01 trillion.

And a strong global economic recovery meant the global debt-to-GDP ratio improved to 80.7% in 2021 from 87.5% in 2020, the report added.

Now though, debt costs may rise sharply, the asset management firm forecast, estimating the global interest burden to increase by almost 15% on a constant-currency basis to $1.16 trillion in 2022.

“The biggest impact is set to be felt in the UK thanks to rising interest rates, the impact of higher inflation on the large amount of UK index-linked debt, and the cost of unwinding the quantitative easing (QE) programme,” the report said.

“As interest rates rise, there is a significant fiscal cost associated with unwinding QE. Central banks will crystallize losses on their bond holdings which have to be paid for by taxpayers.”

The Bank of England has raised interest rates three times since December to 0.75%. Financial markets price in rates hitting 2% by the end of this year.

With inflation jumping and investors anticipating higher rates from major central banks, sovereign bond yields too have risen sharply.

U.S. 10-year Treasury yields, for instance, are up almost 100 basis points this year to 2.45%.

The Janus Henderson report said global government bond markets delivered a -1.9% total return in 2021, only the fourth time in 35 years to see a decline.

Global sovereign debt to rise almost 10% to new high in 2022 – Janus Henderson

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