According to this story by Floyd Norris in today’s New York Times…
…domestic investors purchased more Treasuries than did overseas ones — including foreign governments — in 2009 and again in the first half of this year. Those purchases came as government borrowing rose to pay for bailouts and recession-related spending.
The figures exclude Treasury securities owned by the Federal Reserve or other United States government agencies. As a result, Fed purchases and sales are not counted.
By contrast, during the six years from 2002 — the first year that the United States ran a significant deficit after the years of surpluses — through 2007, three-quarters of the $1.7 trillion in new borrowing came from abroad, with $1 trillion of that coming from foreign governments.
In the two and a half years since the end of 2007, the Treasury has raised twice that amount in new money, $3.5 trillion. More than half of that came from American companies and individuals, double the proportion they contributed in the earlier period.
Deficit hawks and austerians should be worried that this change could become common knowledge. Foreign buying of U.S. debt is one of the things that seems to concern voters the most about deficits and federal borrowing. What will happen if they find out that the amount of federal debt owned by foreign investors is falling?