Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Consumer Credit Set to Be a Positive Contributor to Growth

The WSJ details:

The level of consumer credit outstanding increased by $20.37 billion to $2.478 trillion, the Federal Reserve said Monday. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast an $8.0 billion increase.

In percentage terms, the increase was the biggest since October 2001 and a big driver of the gain was revolving credit, which includes credit-card debt. It increased by $5.60 billion to $798.27 billion.

Nonrevolving credit also surged, rising $14.78 billion to $1.679 trillion. The increase was fueled by federal government, a category that includes student loans and has been increasing a lot over the past year–a sign high joblessness in the U.S. has led many people to go back to school.
The below chart shows where consumer credit stands in nominal terms (click here for a chart outlining consumer credit relative to personal income). We can see that more than 100% of the growth over the past 12 months has come in the form of student loans (i.e. consumer credit growth excluding student loans is negative year over year), as the consumer continued to delever. Note that the rate of this decline has decreased and appears ready to flip positive on a 12-month basis, indicating that consumers will once again be levering up in nominal terms, a positive sign for short-term growth.