Wells Fargo Economics Group Reports on How Much of America Foreigners Own

Wells_Fargo_Securities_logoHow Much of America Do Foreigners Own?

Executive Summary

Recently released data show that the value of foreign holdings of U.S. assets rose to $32.5 trillion at the end of Q2-2016 with stocks and bonds accounting for more than one-half of these holdings. Outside of the U.S. government bond market, where foreigners own roughly one-half of the publicly traded debt, foreign ownership of American securities is much less pervasive. About 20 percent of American securities are owned by foreigners. In other words, domestic residents own the vast majority of U.S. stocks and bonds.

In terms of foreign direct investment (FDI), foreigners own about one-third of the fixed assets in the manufacturing sector. But, direct foreign ownership in other sectors of the U.S. economy is not as widespread. In sum, foreign holdings of U.S. assets are sizable, but perceptions that America is owned by foreigners are simply not supported by the data.

Conclusion

The value of American assets held by foreigners has mushroomed over the past few decades and currently stands near $33 trillion with stocks and bonds accounting for more than one-half of these holdings. Foreigners own sizable amounts of U.S. Treasury securities, but holdings are widespread across individual countries. Although China is the largest individual foreign owner of U.S. Treasury securities, its holdings account for only 10 percent of the U.S. government bond market. Foreign holdings of other types of American securities account for much smaller proportions of the markets for those individual securities.

In terms of FDI, foreigners own about one-third of the fixed assets in the manufacturing sector. But, direct foreign ownership in other sectors of the economy is much less pervasive. In sum, foreign holdings of U.S. assets are sizable, but perceptions that America is owned by foreigners are simply not supported by the data.

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