CEPR Discussion Paper – Who Holds Sovereign Debt and Why It Matters

Xiang Fang, Bryan Hardy, Karen K Lewis

May 2022


This paper studies the impact of investor composition on the sovereign debt market. We construct an aggregate data set of sovereign debt holdings by foreign and domestic bank, non-bank private, and official investors for 95 countries over twenty years. We find that private non-bank investors absorb most of the increase in sovereign debt supply. We further find that foreign non-bank investor demand is most responsive to the yield for emerging market (EM) debt, while yield elasticity for all investors is much lower for advanced economy debt. We show that EM sovereigns are highly vulnerable to losing their foreign non-bank investors.

Who Holds Sovereign Debt and Why It Matters