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Economy in Brief

U.S. Consumer Credit Outstanding Bounces Back in February
by Tom Moeller  April 7, 2021

• Unexpected jump is strongest in more than three years.

• Both nonrevolving & revolving credit usage strengthen.

Consumer credit outstanding surged $27.6 billion during February. It was the strongest increase since November 2017. The rise came after credit nudged $0.1 billion higher in January, revised from a $1.3 billion fall reported last month. December's gain was revised to $9.1 billion from $8.8 billion. A $5.0 billion February rise had been expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. The ratio of consumer credit outstanding-to-disposable personal income of 23.8% compared to 23.9% during all of last year and 25.5% during 2019.

Nonrevolving credit usage increased $19.5 billion following a little-revised $8.7 billion January increase. It was the largest gain since June. Federal government borrowing, which issues over 40% of nonrevolving credit, grew 4.4% y/y. Depository institution loans (25% of credit) grew 3.0% y/y, down from 6.8% y/y growth as of December 2019. Finance company borrowing (17.0% of loans) strengthened 5.8% y/y, up from 1.0% growth in 2019, and credit union loans (15.0% of the total) increased 3.2% y/y compared to double-digit growth in each year from 2014 to 2018.

Revolving consumer credit balances rose $8.1 billion, the largest rise since December 2019. It reversed January's $8.6 billion decline, revised from $9.9 billion. They had been falling throughout 2020. Credit provided by depository institutions (90% of the total and mostly credit card debt), dropped 12.2% y/y. Credit union borrowing fell 7.9% y/y and finance company loans fell 14.9% 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.

The minutes to the latest FOMC meeting are available here.

 Consumer Credit Outstanding (M/M Chg, SA) Feb Jan Dec Feb y/y 2020 2019 2018
Total ($ bil) 27.6 0.1 9.1 -0.1% -0.1% 4.6% 4.8%
   Nonrevolving 19.5 8.7 11.7 4.0 3.9 4.9 5.2
   Revolving 8.1 -8.6 -2.6 -11.6 -11.2 3.7 3.7
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