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Treasury: China Top Creditor to U.S.

Tuesday, 17 Mar 2009 10:22 AM

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WASHINGTON -- China consolidated its position as the top creditor to the United States, with 739.6 billion dollars in US Treasury bond holdings as of late January, US government data showed.

The US Treasury Department released the monthly figure at a sensitive time, less than a week after Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao expressed concern about the fate of Chinese investments in the United States.

It marked growth from 727.4 billion dollars of Chinese-held Treasury bonds at the end of December and was up from the 492.6 billion dollars China held in January 2008, according to the Treasury statistics.

While that year-on-year figure represents a sharp increase, much of it was down to big rises in September and October.

China has been the biggest holder of US Treasury bonds since September last year, when it overtook Japan for the first time ever, according to US data.

However, it issued its most high-level note of alarm yet last Friday when Wen admitted to being worried about China's massive investments in US debt.

"We have lent huge amounts of money to the United States. Of course we are concerned about the safety of our assets," he told a press conference here.

US President Barack Obama later responded with an assurance that "not just the Chinese government, but every investor can have absolute confidence in the soundness of investments in the United States."

Lawrence Summers, director of the White House's National Economic Council, denied Sunday that US Treasury bonds might lose their "AAA" rating from credit agencies because of the economic crisis.

Japan remained the second-largest holder of US debt at the end of January, with 634.8 billion dollars, up from 626.0 billion at the end of December, the Treasury statistics showed.

US Treasury bonds are a preferred investment vehicle for China's government as it seeks safe and reliable ways to place its nearly two trillion dollars of foreign exchange reserves.

Copyright © 2009 Agence France Presse. All rights reserved.

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