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Too Much of a Good Thing: Businesses Binge on Easy Credit, Get Indigestion

Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
Oct 15, 2015
Money in trashEver find a snack food that's tasty and low in calories, so you think you can eat tons of it without feeling guilty? And then, a little while later, you go to pop another one in your mouth before you realize you just ate the entire bag in one sitting, meaning you actually consumed even more calories than you would have if you'd just gotten a smaller bag of chips? 

So apparently, businesses kind of did that, except replace snack food with borrowing, and replace an upset stomach with mountains of debt that are getting more and more difficult to pay off. 

Corporations, according to Bloomberg, have been taking enthusiastic advantage of historically (literally!) low interest rates by pumping up their borrowing. With credit so cheap, why not get it wholesale? Well, low interest doesn't mean no interest, and if you go on a massive borrowing binge, even with credit as cheap as it is now, you're still going to have a significant debt load when all is said and done. How significant? As of the second quarter, high-grade companies incurred $119 billion in interest payments alone, the highest amount recorded since JP Morgan started recording this data in 2000. 

These payments have gotten so bad, they're starting to cancel out whatever benefits low interest rates may have given, especially considering their ability to service this debt, according to Bloomberg, is at its lowest since 2009. This makes for dire news, considering that the financial sector seems to be holding its breath for the inevitable day when the Federal Reserve increases rates. Even if the rate hike doesn't come soon, Bloomberg said massive interest payments have tightened access to further credit, something that could potentially spark off another recession. 

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