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Economy in Brief

U.S. Consumer Credit Usage Weakens
by Tom Moeller  May 7, 2019

Consumer credit outstanding increased $10.27 billion (5.0% y/y) during March, less than the $15.47 billion February addition, revised from $15.18 billion. It was the smallest rise in nine months and lessened three-month growth to 4.4% (AR), down from 5.9% during October. A $16.5 billion gain had been expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey.

Nonrevolving credit usage increased $12.45 billion (5.6% y/y) during March and by 5.4% (AR) during the last three months. Growth peaked for the expansion at 8.4% during 2014. Borrowing from the federal government, which issues roughly 40% of nonrevolving credit, grew 7.4% y/y. Depository institutions (30% of credit) gained 4.4% y/y. Meanwhile, finance company balances improved 0.3% y/y and credit union loans jumped 12.3% y/y. Each of these latter two sectors provide about 15% of nonrevolving credit.

Revolving consumer credit balances were drawn down by $3.18 billion (+3.5% y/y) in March, the first decline in three months. Credit provided by depository institutions, which makes up 90% of revolving credit balances, grew 5.2% y/y. Borrowing from credit unions (6% of the total) increased 8.1% y/y. Credit extended by finance companies (2% of the total) fell 10.6% y/y.

During Q1'19, student loan debt increased 4.9% y/y, down significantly from 14.7% y/y growth in 2008. Motor vehicle financing grew a slightly higher 4.0% y/y.

These Federal Reserve Board figures are break-adjusted and calculated by Haver Analytics. The breaks in the series in 2005, 2010 and 2015 are the result of the incorporation of the Census and Survey of Finance Companies, as well as changes in the seasonal adjustment methodology.

The consumer credit data are available in Haver's USECON database. The Action Economics figures are contained in the AS1REPNA database.

Consumer Credit Outstanding (M/M Chg, SA) Mar Feb Jan Mar y/y 2018 2017 2016
Total $10.27 bil. $15.47 bil. $17.17 bil. 5.0 4.7 5.0 6.8
   Nonrevolving 12.45 12.38 14.36 5.6 5.3 4.8 6.9
   Revolving -3.18 3.08 2.80 3.5 3.1 5.6 6.8
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