THE DEBT THREAT : Business debt, and worries about it, are up. 

Homeowners appear to have learned the lesson of The Great Recession about not taking on too much debt. There is some concern that corporate America didn't get the message.

For much of the past decade, companies have borrowed at super-low interest rates and used the money to buy back stock, acquire other businesses and refinance old debt.

The vast majority of the companies are paying their bills on time, thanks in large part to profits that have surged since the economy emerged from the Great Recession nine and half years ago.

But with interest rates rising and US economic growth expected to slow next year, worries are building from Washington to  Wall Street that corporate debt is approaching potentially dangerous levels.

US corporate debt has grown by nearly two-thirds since 2008 to more than $9 trillion and, along with government debt, has ballooned much faster than other parts of the bond market.

Investors are most concerned about companies at the weaker end of the financial-strength scale - those considered most likely to default or get down graded to ''junk'' status should recession hit.

''I've been worried about the  bond market than the equity market,'' said Kirk Hartman, global chief investment officer at Wells Fargo Asset management.

''I think at some point, all the leverage in the system is going to raise its ugly head.'' [Agencies]


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