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HomeEconomicsUpdating the Exterior Wealth of Nations database to 2021

Updating the Exterior Wealth of Nations database to 2021


The 12 months 2021 noticed a speedy restoration in world GDP from the depths of the COVID-induced recession, additional will increase in fairness costs internationally, most notably in the USA, and a widening of present account surpluses and deficits. The latter growth mirrored each the power of the restoration and the rebound in commodity costs, particularly for oil and gasoline, which boosted the exterior balances of exporting nations on the expense of importers.

The mixed impact of those components diminished the combination dimension of world creditor and debtor positions in relation to world GDP. The dominant issue was the rise within the denominator, boosted by sturdy development and rising inflation.

Global creditor and debtor positions

The U.S. debtor place

Nonetheless, as in 2020, the most important web debtor place—that of the USA—elevated additional. It’s near 80 % of U.S. GDP, a degree with only a few precedents throughout massive economies in additional than 50 years.[1] Three components contributed to the rise: increased U.S. borrowing from overseas as U.S. shoppers spent extra on items, an appreciating U.S. greenback (which reduces the greenback worth of U.S. property in different currencies), and particularly an extra sharp enhance in U.S. fairness costs (up 25 % throughout the 12 months, based on the Morgan Stanley Capital Worldwide index) which raises the worth of foreign-owned shares and crops within the U.S.

Changes in US net IIP 2020-21

Ought to the rise within the U.S. debtor place increase worries? As mentioned right here, there are components tempering considerations: the deterioration within the exterior place has been primarily pushed by rising asset costs, which additionally increase total U.S. wealth, and measurement points associated to FDI might overstate U.S. liabilities. A U.S. inventory market correction (as occurred dramatically in 2022) tends to enhance the exterior place (by decreasing the worth of U.S. shares and crops owned by nonresidents), and a depreciation of the U.S. greenback possible will contribute to exterior adjustment each via its affect on web exports (stimulating exports and discouraging imports) and thru its valuation results (by elevating the greenback worth of U.S. property in foreign exchange). Nonetheless, the U.S. greenback has continued to understand this 12 months and the U.S. present account deficit is more likely to widen additional in 2022, as international demand cools and U.S. demand stays sturdy.

Valuation positive aspects from increased values of U.S. property

Who had been the beneficiaries of elevated asset values within the U.S.? As in 2020, nations with massive sovereign wealth funds, which have excessive fairness and FDI holdings within the U.S., rank excessive on the record. These embody Norway and several other Gulf states (together with Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates). Creditor positions in these nations additionally benefited from increased oil revenues, which widened present account surpluses.[2]

Change in net IIP and net financial transactions 2021

However the nation the place the exterior place improved probably the most is Canada. It’s now the 8th largest creditor nation, with web property of round US$1.17 trillion. Canada has a big share of its exterior property within the U.S., and therefore advantages closely from increased U.S. asset costs. Moreover, its foreign money depreciated in opposition to the greenback, and this raises the worth of its property in U.S. {dollars} relative to its liabilities in Canadian {dollars}. The big creditor place of Canada stands in sharp distinction with its sample of exterior borrowing. For the reason that finish of 2009, Canada’s cumulative web exterior borrowing amounted to US$500 billion, however its web exterior place improved by virtually $1.4 trillion {dollars}: massive will increase within the worth of its exterior property within the U.S. performed an important function.

The biggest collectors and China’s exterior place

This desk exhibits the most important web collectors in absolute phrases as of end-2021, in addition to the place relative to home GDP and the change relative to 2020. The worsening of China’s exterior place is shocking: in 2021 it recorded a big present account surplus, and it has sizable holdings of U.S. property.

Largest net external creditors 2021

Scrutiny of the information gives an evidence. First, Chinese language property within the U.S. are overwhelmingly bonds, which didn’t enhance in worth throughout 2021. Second, Chinese language portfolio fairness property are concentrated in Hong Kong, the place the inventory market misplaced worth in 2021. Third, the Chinese language renminbi appreciated throughout 2021, together with vis-à-vis the greenback. Chinese language liabilities are denominated at the least partially in renminbi—therefore their greenback worth has risen. In distinction, their foreign-currency property, together with each FDI and reserves, are partly denominated in different currencies, such because the euro or rising market currencies, and their greenback worth correspondingly declined with the strengthening of the U.S. greenback. Lastly, China’s web lending overseas is sort of a bit smaller than its present account surplus, as its exterior accounts are characterised by a big unfavourable discrepancy (“web errors and omissions” within the steadiness of funds) between the 2. This might replicate unrecorded outflows of capital from China (which might not be captured in its official web creditor place) or some overstatement of the present account steadiness.


[1] Amongst all economies with GDP exceeding $500 billion (roughly the dimensions of Austria or Norway in 2021), solely Spain’s web debtor place has exceeded this quantity in relation to home GDP up to now 50 years.

[2] As for different nations within the chart, Spain’s place in U.S. {dollars} improved due to the depreciation of the euro vis-à-vis the greenback (Spain’s liabilities are overwhelmingly in euros), whereas Australia’s improved place displays each massive fairness holdings within the U.S. (which elevated in worth) and a depreciation of the Australian greenback, which diminished the US$ worth of its liabilities.


The Brookings Establishment is financed via the assist of a various array of foundations, companies, governments, people, in addition to an endowment. A listing of donors may be present in our annual studies revealed on-line right here. The findings, interpretations, and conclusions on this report are solely these of its writer(s) and will not be influenced by any donation.

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