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Sovereign debt issuance surges to record $2.1 trillion as countries battle virus

Gross sovereign debt issuance surged to a record high of more than $2.1 trillion in March as governments around the world accelerated borrowing as part of their aggressive fiscal policy response to the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Institute of International Finance.

The IIF said the record government debt issuance last month was more than double the average issuance of $900 billion in 2017-2019.

"With the COVID-19 fiscal response in full swing, the global debt burden is set to rise dramatically in 2020," the IIF said in a report.

The IIF warned that the global sovereign debt pile could jump to 342% of GDP in 2020 from 322% in 2019, under a scenario where global GDP contracts by 3% this year while net government borrowing doubles.

READ MORE: Sign up for our weekly coronavirus newsletter here, and read our latest coverage on the crisis here.

"While remarkable uncertainty around the scale and duration of the pandemic makes point estimates challenging, a sharp upward trajectory in debt levels looks all but certain," the IIF said.

In 2019, global debt across all sectors climbed by over $10 trillion to more than $255.3 trillion. Government debt accounted for about $70.0 trillion of the global pile, while nonfinancial corporate debt accounted for $74.2 trillion. Financial-sector debt totaled $63.1 trillion.

Emerging-market debt rose by more than $3.4 trillion, to $71.1 trillion, in 2019, bringing the debt-to-GDP ratio to 220%, a new all-time high.

The IIF warned that more than $20 trillion of bond and loans will come due through the end of 2020, with emerging-market debt accounting for 23% of the total.