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Worldwide Gov't Debt Tops $66 Trillion, New Record

Governments are continuing to run up huge debt levels, with emerging countries helping push the total global IOU to 80 percent of gross domestic product.

The worldwide tab through 2018 is now up to $66 trillion as measured in U.S. currency terms, or about double where it was in 2007, just as the financial crisis was beginning to unfold; this from Fitch Ratings' new Global Government Debt Chart Book, released Wednesday.

After a decade in which global central banks kept interest rates low and made running up debt far less expensive, monetary policy is in a normalization period. The U.S. Federal Reserve, for instance, has raised interest rates eight times since late 2015, and its counterparts around the world are ending the extreme easing conditions from the financial crisis.

U.S. Treasury Department data shows debt in developed countries has remained fairly steady, around $50 trillion, since 2012, though that's not true of the U.S. Total public debt for the American government has jumped from $15.2 trillion to $21.9 trillion, or 44%, during the period,

Fitch noted that the total U.S. debt is nearly 10 times the size of France, Germany, Italy and the U.K. combined.

While the U.S. debt stands out among larger economies, it has plenty of company in the developing world.

Fitch said emerging market economy debt surged 50% in the period since 2012, from $10 trillion to $15 trillion. Leaders during that time proportionately were the Middle East and North Africa, with a 104% increase, and sub-Saharan Africa at 75%. Those two regions, though, have less than $1 trillion each in debt.

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