Consumer Credit in U.S. Rose by Less Than Forecast in February

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U.S. consumer debt growth eased in February and was less than forecast as Americans tapped credit cards, signaling consumption remained stable early this year.

Total credit climbed $15.2 billion from the prior month, missing the $17 billion median estimate of economists, following an upwardly revised $17.7 billion gain in January, Federal Reserve figures showed Friday. Revolving debt outstanding increased the most in three months while non-revolving credit growth slowed.

Key Insights

  • The data suggest consumers remained willing to spend in the first quarter, with activity propelled by a healthy labor market and steady wage gains.
  • While weaker than expected, data still point to a confident consumer. The University of Michigan’s March sentiment index advanced to the highest this year, though the Conference Board confidence measure was more muted.
  • Credit expanded at a 4.5 percent annual rate after 5.3 percent in the prior month.

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  • Revolving credit outstanding, which includes credit card debt, increased $2.95 billion after a $2.62 billion advance.
  • Non-revolving debt outstanding climbed $12.2 billion after $15.1 billion. Such debt includes loans for school and automobiles. The gain is in-line with separate data showing sales of vehicles slowed in January and February.
  • Lending by the federal government, which is mainly for student loans, expanded by $5.6 billion before seasonal adjustment.
  • The central bank’s consumer credit report doesn’t track debt secured by real estate, such as home equity lines of credit and home mortgages.

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