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U.S. Consumer Credit Tops Forecast on Surge in Revolving Debt

Bloomberg logoBloomberg 2/7/2020 Jeff Kearns

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. consumer debt rose the most in five months in December, topping estimates as the amount of outstanding credit card and other revolving debt jumped by the most since 1998.

Total credit climbed by $22.1 billion from the prior month, exceeding all economist estimates in Bloomberg’s survey, after a downwardly revised $11.8 billion gain in the prior month, Federal Reserve figures showed Friday. Revolving credit outstanding, which includes credit card debt, increased by $12.6 billion.

a screenshot of a cell phone: U.S. revolving consumer debt jumps most since 1998© Bloomberg U.S. revolving consumer debt jumps most since 1998

Key Insights

The rebound in credit suggests consumers needed more than just wage gains and cheaper fuel to drive fourth-quarter growth. Other December figures showed outlays decelerated.Full-year figures indicated credit growth was unchanged at 4.7% last year, the same annual rate as 2018 and less than the 5.1% increase in 2017.The amount of non-revolving debt outstanding grew by $9.4 billion, the least since September.Data out earlier Friday showed a stronger-than-expected jobs market is likely to support spending in coming months.

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Credit expanded at an annual rate of 6.3% in December, after growing 3.4% in the prior month, the Fed report showed.Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had projected the credit gauge would rise by $15 billion.The consumer credit report doesn’t track debt secured by real estate, such as home mortgages.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeff Kearns in Washington at jkearns3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Scott Lanman at slanman@bloomberg.net, Chris Middleton

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