The latest report from the Federal Reserve Board of Governors on consumer credit showed that Americans’ borrowing activity surged at the end of the first quarter. Specifically, total U.S. consumer credit outstanding expanded by $29.7 billion in March (lagged) at an annualized rate of 10 percent to $3,592.3 billion. This is significantly better than the $15.8 billion increase economists had expected, more than double February’s gain, and the fastest overall rise in consumer borrowing since 2001. Under the hood, the majority of the increase was again driven by non-revolving credit, e.g. student and automobile loans, which rose by $18.6 billion in March, the 55th consecutive monthly gain. Through the first quarter, student loans outstanding climbed by $31.7 billion and lending for automobile purchases increased by $13.5 billion. Revolving credit, which is mostly consumers’ credit cards, jumped by $11.1 billion in March, the largest month-over-month gain since 2006. Altogether, the longer-term trends of an acceleration in revolving credit growth and a somewhat stalled expansion in non-revolving credit remain clearly intact. This should persist as long as the labor market and household balance sheets continue to improve and enable more American consumers to take on additional debt.
Sources: Econoday, Twitter, Bloomberg, FRBG, FRBSLPost author: Charles Couch