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Saudi Arabia holds $117B in US debt

The Treasury Department said Monday that Saudi Arabia held $116.8 billion in U.S. debt at the end of March, revealing for the first time the holdings of the world's biggest oil exporter.

The pile puts Saudi Arabia among the largest foreign nation holders of American debt. Still, it sits well behind countries like China and Japan, which both had more than $1 trillion in Treasury securities at the end of March.

Saudi Arabia's holdings could be even larger than officially listed, according to Bloomberg, which first reported the total.

Saudi Arabia has about $587 billion in foreign reserves and central banks often put about two-thirds of their stashes in dollars, Bloomberg said. Some countries list Treasury holdings offshore and they show up under other countries.

Since the Treasury started to disclose foreign debt holdings in 1974, it had not disclosed Saudi Arabia's holdings. It previously grouped the country with 14 other nations.

Treasury spokeswoman Whitney Smith said the Treasury switched to country-specific data to boost transparency in its reports on foreign investment flows.

"We recently undertook a thorough data and legal analysis to determine if we could report data in a more comprehensive and transparent fashion. We concluded that it was consistent with transparency and the law to disclose the data in a disaggregated fashion," she said.

Read the full Bloomberg report here.