US borrows $3 trillion as economy struggles with coronavirus

The continuing economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic will see the US Treasury borrowing a record amount in the second financial quarter.

The $2.999 trillion (£2.41trn) is more than five times the previous quarterly record of $569bn set during the 2008 financial crisis.

It is also much more than the the previous full-year record of $1.8 trillion set in 2009.

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A senior Treasury official confirmed the forecast for borrowing during the April to June quarter was “larger than what we would typically do in a year”.

The previous forecast issued in February had been much lower but this was when the coronavirus was only in the early stages of its worldwide spread.

The picture then was so optimistic that the Treasury had expected to pay down $56bn (£44.9bn) in debt during the second quarter.

But now many US businesses have been forced to close due to measures aimed at limiting the virus’s spread, resulting in tens of millions of people being out of work.

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The government faces a bill of nearly $3 trillion for rescue packages that will support them with grants and loans. Also, with so many people out of work, there will be in a smaller tax base.

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Nancy Vanden Houten, an economist at Oxford Economics, said: “Borrowing needs are skyrocketing as Treasury needs cash to fund stimulus measures and to compensate for a plunge in revenues caused by massive job losses.”

Mike Lorizio, senior fixed income trader at Boston-based Manulife Investment Management, added: “Even before the pandemic there was going to be some increased funding needs going forward. But now all things are out the window.”

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The government borrowing will also cover a shortfall in revenue that resulted from the Trump administration moving tax payment deadlines from April to June.

The Treasury plans include borrowing $4.48 trillion (£3.6trn) in the budget year, which ends on 30 September.

This includes a projected $677bn (£543bn) in the third quarter (July to September).

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the US economy will contract by a record 40% at an annual rate in the current quarter, which ends in June.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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