Consumer Credit Rises to Record $3.8 Trillion

The surge in borrowing in October was fueled by a 9.9% increase in revolving credit outstanding, which mostly consists of credit-card loans.
Matthew HellerDecember 8, 2017

U.S. consumer borrowing rose in October at the fastest rate in 11 months, reflecting heavy credit card spending.

The Federal Reserve said Thursday that total consumer credit increased $20.5 billion to a record seasonally adjusted $3.8 trillion, climbing at an annual growth rate of 6.5%.

It was the second straight strong monthly gain in consumer borrowing after a revised $19.2 billion in September, down only slightly from the prior estimate of a $20.8 billion. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected a $17.2 billion increase in October.

Revolving credit outstanding, which mostly consists of credit-card loans, accelerated to an annual rate of 9.9% in October, up from the 7.3% gain in September. Nonrevolving credit outstanding, mainly student and auto loans, rose at a 5.3% annual pace compared with 5.7% the previous month.

“The hefty above-trend gain in consumer credit in October was likely aided by the post-hurricane surge in auto sales,” MarketWatch said, adding that the increase in revolving credit may boost holiday sales.

According to Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, non-revolving credit has been decelerating, in part because the low unemployment rate is attracting younger people into the labor market and reducing the demand for student loans.

“While some of the increase in credit-card debt could be related to spending following the hurricanes, the strength of consumer sentiment surveys suggests there could be a greater willingness on the part of the consumer to re-lever modestly,” T.J. Connelly, head of research at Contingent Macro Advisors, said.

Household debt totaled $12.955 trillion in the third quarter, up 0.9% from the spring, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York said last month. That was the most on record, though the figure wasn’t adjusted for inflation.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported last month that household debt reached a record $12.955 trillion in the third quarter, up 0.9% from the spring.