Consumer borrowing in the U.S. rose in November for a second month, led by an increase in non-revolving credit such as student loans held by the government.
Credit climbed by $1.3 billion after increasing a revised $7 billion in October, the Federal Reserve said today in Washington. Non-revolving loans such as auto financing and education-related lending by the government rose $5.6 billion.
November marked the 27th straight month in which credit- card borrowing declined, indicating Americans remain hesitant to take on more debt as the economy recovers. At the same time, employment growth and higher stock prices helped contribute to stronger sales heading into 2011.
“The consumer is fine,” Brian Jones, an economist at Societe Generale in New York, said before the report. Faster job growth is “the one thing that’s really been absent here and that would provide sustainable support to spending going forward.”
Economists forecast consumer credit would increase by $500 million, according to the median of 33 projections in a Bloomberg News survey. Estimates ranged from a drop of $8 billion to a gain of $4.5 billion.
The U.S. added 103,000 jobs in December, a separate report from the Labor Department showed today. Economists projected a 150,000 increase, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey. The jobless rate fell to 9.4 percent.
Stronger economic data helped the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rebound in the second half of 2010 and end the year with a gain of 13 percent.
Revolving debt, which includes credit cards, fell by $4.2 billion in November after a $5.4 billion decrease, according to today’s Fed report.
The increase in non-revolving debt was led by an unadjusted $3.6 billion rise in federal government lending for education. The report doesn’t track debt secured by real estate, such as home-equity lines of credit.
Auto sales in November increased to a seasonally adjusted 12.26 million annual rate before rising to a 12.53 million pace in December. The combined 37.04 million rate for the fourth quarter of 2010 was the strongest since the third quarter of 2008.
General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC this week reported U.S. sales gains for December that topped analysts’ estimates.
“Credit availability in the auto sector will continue to improve in 2011 on the back of the improving job market and improving credit force,” said Don Johnson, Detroit-based GM’s vice president of U.S. sales operations.
The average amount financed for a new-car purchase fell to $27,433 in November and made up 82 percent of the total value of the automobile, on an unadjusted basis. The interest rate rose to 4.63 percent in November from 4.52 percent, today’s report showed.
The Fed, according to minutes of its Dec. 14 policy meeting released Jan. 4, said consumer credit outstanding “showed signs of stabilizing,” though lending “terms were still noticeably less favorable than in the past, and demand for credit appeared to remain weak.”
Credit-card loans at least 30 days overdue fell to 4.38 percent in November, the lowest level in almost three years, according to a Moody’s Investors Service report released Dec. 22. The top six U.S. credit-card issuers, including JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp. and Citigroup Inc., all reported lower delinquencies for the month. Write-offs rose at JPMorgan and Capital One Financial Corp. and fell at the other four companies.
Credit card losses have decoupled from the jobless rate because people who are out of work for an extended period and default on loans have limited — if any — access to credit. Issuers typically write off card loans after 180 days.
Americans are spending more. Holiday purchases jumped 5.5 percent, the best performance since 2005, MasterCard Advisors’ SpendingPulse said Dec. 28. The group measures retail sales by all payment forms and includes Internet purchases.
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