Fed Chair Jay Powell suggests that the recent surge in U.S. business debt poses moderate risks to the economy.

Laura Hermes

2019-06-05 10:34:00 Wed ET

Fed Chair Jay Powell suggests that the recent surge in U.S. business debt poses moderate risks to the economy. Many corporate treasuries now carry about 40% debt as part of equity market valuation. St Louis Federal Reserve Bank recent data indicate that the corporate-debt-to-EBITDA ratio has risen to the upper range of 2.3x to 3.1x.

Powell warns that the current level of business debt can cause financial stress to borrowers if the economy weakens. However, Powell adds the cautionary caveat that business debt may not present imminent risks to U.S. financial system stability, household consumption, and business growth. As the Federal Reserve continues to assess the main amplification of business debt deterioration, short-term liquidity risk remains moderate in the core U.S. financial sector. In the meantime, the Trump administration seeks to raise fiscal deficits to support ambitious public programs on infrastructure, education, residential estate, health care, and social security etc. This public debt accumulation may crowd out intertemporal business debt capacity at the margin. If the U.S. aggregate debt capacity remains invariant over time, the government either has to tolerate higher inflation in the form of seigniorage taxes, or needs to reconsider the ripple effects of incremental corporate debt on the real economy.

 


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