We’ll soon get new figures from the Federal Reserve now that the second quarter is coming to an end today, but I’d guess that the debt picture won’t be better than it was at the end of the first quarter on March 31.
At the end of May non-financial corporate debt in the United States stood at $10.5 trillion, or 48.7% of gross domestic product. That’s the highest level in records that go back to 1950.
Household debt stood at more than 75% of GDP.
The issue isn’t just the level of debt but how much of it will go into default as borrowers miss payments. More than $1 trillion in mortgage debt—including an estimated $361 billion on the balance sheets of private lenders—is in forbearance programs that postpone payments for a while. A estimated 7% of auto loans were in “hardship” in May, a status that indicates the borrower has asked for temporary relief on payments due to economic hardship. The figure for credit cards was 3.7%. Those figures are 18 and 180 times higher than May 2019 levels.
I’d note that there are numerous Federal Reserve “facilities” to make sure that corporate debtors can continue to access the financial markets.
Consumers, on the other hand, have very little in the way of a backstop except the forbearance of creditors and expiring programs that add to unemployment benefits and the Paycheck Protection Program that stops accepting new loan applications at midnight tonight.
Today the Republican-controlled Senate confirmed that it will not resume negotiations over a new coronavirus rescue package until after it returns from a Fourth of July recess that stretches until the Senate’s return on July 20. The Senate is then back in session for three weeks before going on recess from August 10 through September 7.
Hope you’re not counting on much help from Washington in the coronavirus economic crisis.