Consumer borrowing in the U.S. climbed in May by the most in a year as Americans put more purchases on their credit cards and took out more school and automobile loans.
The $19.6 billion increase in credit followed a revised $10.9 billion gain the previous month that was less than initially reported, Federal Reserve figures showed Monday in Washington. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey called for a $12.5 billion advance.
The boost to household wealth from recovering property values and higher stock prices is putting Americans in a position to capitalize on lower interest rates and purchase costlier items, such as cars. Confidence to borrow is also being punctuated by faster job and income growth that will help sustain the consumer spending that accounts for about 70 percent of the economy.
“Demand for credit is picking up,” said Kevin Cummins, an economist for UBS Securities LLC in Stamford, Connecticut. “Job gains do suggest that income growth is running at a healthy clip, and we’re likely to see consumer spending pick up in the back half of the year.”
Estimates of the 35 economists surveyed by Bloomberg for consumer credit ranged from gains of $8 billion to $17 billion. The Fed’s consumer credit report doesn’t track debt secured by real estate, such as home-equity lines of credit and home mortgages.
Stocks rose for a third day as investors awaited the start of second-quarter earnings season. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index added 0.5 percent to 1,640.06 at 3:20 p.m. in New York.
Labor Department figures last week showed that employment increased more than forecast in June, wages picked up and the jobless rate held close to a four-year low.
Payrolls rose by 195,000 workers for a second straight month, exceeding the median forecast in a Bloomberg survey for a 165,000 gain and up from a previously reported 175,000 increase in May. The jobless rate held at 7.6 percent, while hourly earnings in the year ended in June advanced by the most since July 2011.
Non-revolving debt, such as that for college tuition and the purchase of vehicles and mobile homes, increased $13 billion after rising $10.1 billion a month earlier, today’s report showed. Lending to consumers by the federal government, which is mainly for student loans, rose by $3.8 billion before adjusting for seasonal variations.
Automobile demand has been a bright spot for the economy. Cars and light trucks sold at a 15.9 million annualized rate in June, the most since November 2007, after a 15.2 million pace a month earlier, according to data from Ward’s Automotive Group.
“Low borrowing costs and rising consumer wealth should continue to support spending growth going forward,” Jenny Lin, senior U.S. economist at Ford Motor Co., said on a July 2 earnings call.
Revolving debt, which includes credit cards, increased by $6.6 billion, the most in a year, after an $800 million advance in April, Monday’s Fed report showed.
Personal spending in May climbed 0.3 percent after a 0.3 percent drop in the prior month, the Commerce Department said. Incomes advanced 0.5 percent in May following a 0.1 percent gain the prior month, Commerce Department figures showed on June 27.
Household wealth, which is making consumers more at ease about borrowing, is being underpinned by the recovery in housing. The S&P/Case-Shiller index of property values in 20 cities increased 12.1 percent in April from the same month in 2012, the biggest year-over-year gain since March 2006.
Higher stock prices also provide the resources to increase spending. The U.S. is in the fifth year of a bull market amid better-than-estimated corporate earnings and three rounds of bond purchases by the Fed. The S&P 500 has increased 14.4 percent this year through last week.
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