Foreign holdings of US Treasury securities drop 1.6 per cent in July to $6.08 trillion

WASHINGTON – Foreign holdings of U.S. Treasury securities fell again in July as China, the biggest foreign owner of U.S. government debt, cut back its holdings.

The Treasury Department said Wednesday in its monthly report that total holdings dropped 1.6 per cent to $6.08 trillion, down from $6.18 trillion in June. The July decline marked the third drop in the past four months.

China reduced its holdings by 2.4 per cent in July to $1.24 trillion. Japan, the No. 2 holder of U.S. Treasurys, boosted its holdings by .03 per cent to $1.20 trillion.

Despite the recent declines, foreign demand for U.S. Treasury securities is expected to remain strong this year. They are considered one of the world’s safest investments.

Two-thirds of the Treasurys in foreign hands are owned by governments, primarily the central banks of other nations. The $4.12 trillion in U.S. debt owned by foreign governments in July was down 1.1 per cent from level in June.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has been employing emergency measures to keep the government’s total borrowing beneath the current debt ceiling of $18.1 trillion. In a letter to Congress last week, Lew said those measures will be exhausted in either late October or early November. He appealed to lawmakers to approve legislation to increase the debt ceiling without delay.

In August 2011, Standard & Poor’s downgraded the nation’s credit rating for the first time in history because of a prolonged standoff over passing a new debt limit.