Rising Interest Rates Spark Heightened Anxiety Over Deficits

That, several economists have said, is the core of the issue: America is borrowing a lot even at a time when the unemployment rate is very low and growth is strong, so the economy does not need a lot of government help.

“Right now we have an incredible amount of issuance at the same time as the Fed is messaging higher for longer,” said Robert Tipp, chief investment strategist at PGIM Fixed Income, noting that typically higher issuance comes in periods of turmoil when central bank policy is more accommodative. “This is like a wartime budget deficit but without any help from the central bank. That is why this is so different.”

The Treasury Department has sold close to $16 trillion of debt for the year through September, up roughly 25 percent from the same period last year, according to data from the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association. Much of that issuance replaced existing debt that was coming due, leaving a net debt issuance of around $1.7 trillion, more than at any other point over the past decade except for the pandemic-induced bond binge in 2020. The Treasury’s own advisory committee forecasts the size of government debt sales to rise another 23 percent in 2024.

Maya MacGuineas, the president of the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and a longtime proponent of reducing deficits, said it was hard to tell what had caused rates to climb recently. Still, she said, the move serves as a “reminder.”

“From a fiscal perspective, the story is very simple: If you borrow too much, you become increasingly vulnerable to higher interest rates,” she said.

Santul Nerkar contributed reporting.

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