U.S. Consumer Debt Increased by $18.45 Billion at the End of 2017

02/07/18 03:15 PM EST
    By Sharon Nunn and Sarah Chaney 

WASHINGTON--U.S. consumer borrowing decelerated at the end of 2017, according to the Federal Reserve.

Outstanding consumer credit, a gauge of non-real estate debt, rose by $18.45 billion in December, growing at a 5.8% seasonally adjusted annual rate, the Fed said Wednesday. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expected a $19.3 billion increase.

Revolving credit outstanding, mostly credit cards, increased at a 6.0% annual pace in December, while nonrevolving credit outstanding, mainly student and auto loans, rose at a 5.7% annual pace.

The past year saw ramped up consumer spending and overall solid economic growth bolstered by a tightening labor market, high consumer confidence and rising household wealth.

By the third quarter of 2017, total household debt had exceeded its 2008 peak by $280 billion, according to a November report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York that employed a different methodology than Wednesday's report.

Analysts are keeping an eye on rising consumer borrowing as the personal-saving rate has declined.

"Right now, delinquencies are still fairly low, but they're climbing," said Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com, in a note to clients last month. "A mix of increased card debt and higher interest rates means that climb will probably accelerate in 2018. That could mean big trouble for many Americans."

The Federal Reserve's latest report on consumer credit can be accessed at: https://www.federalreserve.gov/releases/g19/current/

Write to Sharon Nunn at sharon.nunn@wsj.com and Sarah Chaney at sarah.chaney@wsj.com.


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 07, 2018 15:15 ET (20:15 GMT)

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