AllMarket Outlook
logoArgusSeptember 17, 2021

Daily Spotlight: Debt a High Level of GDP

Market Outlook
Bullish - Short term

Everyone is wondering when the Federal Reserve will start to wind down its asset-purchase program -- but few are discussing U.S. debt levels, which have grown over the past 10 years. Total U.S. debt is now more than 125% of GDP, according to the Office of Management & the Budget. This is the highest level since World War II. In the 1970s and 1980s, the debt/GDP ratio was in the 30%-40% range, and moved up toward the 60% level by 2000. The debt level soared around 2010, as the government spent aggressively to halt the Great Recession and rekindle growth. (According to Keynes, that's what the government is supposed to do). Still, despite more than 10 years of economic growth prior to the pandemic, debt only increased as a percentage of GDP. And now, in light of the fiscal spending to fight the impact of COVID-19, debt levels have surged. This is not a problem that has to be fixed today. After all, interest rates are low on an historical basis and policies to change the trajectory (less spending, more taxes) could push the economy back into decline. But politicians should start to establish a plan to address the issue in the next 10-15 years. If the problem is not solved, the situation could result in hyperinflation and a weak dollar, which would send interest rates higher and cut into equity valuations.

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