US corporations are sitting on nearly $10 trillion in debt. That’s equivalent to roughly 47% of the overall economy, which is a record, according to date first cited by the Washington Post.
Since the financial crisis in 2008, corporations have splurged on debt amid historically cheap borrowing costs. In recent months, experts have warning that ballooning corporate debt could worsen a future economic downturn.
As central banks around the world have loosened monetary policy over the last decade, corporations have felt encouraged to pursue “financial risk-taking,” according to a report from the IMF published in October.
That dynamic has made some systemically-important economies more vulnerable to an economic slowdown, the report found.
“Corporate leverage can also amplify shocks, as corporate deleveraging could lead to depressed investment and higher unemployment, and corporate defaults could trigger losses and curb lending by banks,” the IMF wrote.
In a recession half as severe as the 2008 financial crisis corporate debt-at-risk – which is owned by firms that can’t cover interest expenses with their profits – could increased to $19 trillion, or almost 40% of total corporate debt in major economies, the IMF said.