What makes you most nervous about the future? Debt. The idea that growth will remedy our debts is so addictive for politicians, but the citizens end up paying the price. The public sector has really stepped up as a consumer of debt. The Federal Reserve’s balance sheet is leveraged 77:1. Like I said, the absurdity, it just befuddles me.

How did Michael Burry arrive at the 77:1 figure? Is this close to reality? How could the Fed be leveraged when they can simply print money to pay down debt in the first place?


2 Answers 2


Page 4 of this document has the balance sheet as of November 2015: http://www.federalreserve.gov/monetarypolicy/files/quarterly_balance_sheet_developments_report_201511.pdf

Their assets are 4489 liabilities are 4431. Thus Equity is 58, L/E = 76 (approx).

It would not matter even if Fed had infinite leverage ratio. However, as far as I know congress has agreed to keep Fed solvent (so the ratio can't go negative). Although, the institution is not even solvent, as some of it's assets are marked mark to model, thus having much lower fair value than presented in the balance sheet.

The balance sheet reflects created money (growth in base money) and not debt. Created money generates inflation, but significant amount of bank credit was destroyed which also constituted money people transacted with. Thus the newly created Fed money has just replaced the bank credit and there has been no significant inflation, as the M2 money supply has only raised slightly. Some of the currency has also been exported overseas as USA continues to have a balance of payment / trade deficits.

Based on the quote, it seems the author has confused two issues. If you want to investigate the debt and liabilities of the government, you need to look at the government debt and it's other liabilities (not merely the Fed). He is correct that the debt is at a quite high historical level (only during world war 2 was it higher), while other liabilities (such as social security and medicare liabilities) I believe are at an unprecedented historical level.


Total assets on the Fed balance sheet

The FRED site has graphs for total assets of the Fed balance sheet:


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It also has a graph for total capital on the Fed balance sheet:


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Leverage ratio

Leverage ratio is assets/capital. FRED actually lets you combine data sets using arithmetic operations. So let's graph assets/capital:


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As you can see, the leverage ratio as of July 2022 is 213.


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