Consumer credit grows in October, reflecting higher use of credit cards
By: The Associated Press
The Messenger 12.17.07
By MARTIN CRUTSINGER
AP Economics Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — Consumer borrowing rose in October at a slightly faster rate than the previous month as shoppers continued to depend on their credit cards to finance purchases.
The Federal Reserve reported Friday that consumer credit increased at an annual rate of 2.3 percent in October, faster than the 1.6 percent growth rate for September.
The gain reflected an acceleration in the growth of credit card debt which offset a second straight month of declines in the category of debt that includes auto loans.
Revolving credit, which includes credit card debt, increased at a rate of 8.3 percent in October following a gain of 6 percent in September and an even stronger pace of 10.6 percent in August.
Credit card debt has been surging in recent months as consumers have started borrowing more heavily on their credit cards now that home refinancings have slowed. That slowdown has reflected tighter bank lending conditions as a serious slump in housing has sent home prices falling and increased the level of mortgage defaults.
“Consumers’ ability and willingness to extract equity from their homes is waning and thus they will have to increasingly turn to other forms of credit, namely credit cards,” said Ryan Sweet, an economist at Moody’s Economy.com. “Elevated gasoline prices will also provide additional support to revolving credit as consumers typically use credit cards at the pump.”
For October, auto loans actually shrank at an annual rate of 1.3 percent following a 1.1 percent rate of decline in September. This reflected the serious difficulties facing domestic automakers, who have seen demand stagnate in the face of surging gasoline prices.
Before the back-to-back declines in auto loans in the past two months, loans in this area had only experienced one monthly decline in the past seven years.
Overall consumer credit rose by $4.7 billion to a record $2.49 trillion in October. The increase was slightly ahead of the $3.2 billion rise in September but below the $6 billion advance that economists had expected.