US businesses on borrowing binge

US non-financial corporate debt chart

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.

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.