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US businesses on borrowing binge

US households are notorious for racking up debt, but companies are not far behind.

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US households are notorious for racking up debt, but companies are not far behind. As a percentage of GDP, the total debt of America's non-financial corporations has reached around 74%, a record high slightly above the 2008 peak. Debt is more evenly distributed now, says The Economist. Last year only 27% of firms were highly levered meaning that their debt was worth five times their profits compared with 42% in 2007, "so fewer are immediately at risk" this time round.

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The sector most at risk, according to ratings agency Standard & Poor's Global Ratings, is retail. But as interest rates rise from historic lows, all this borrowing is likely to be a drag on overall investment and growth.

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