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Consumers racked up more debt in January. The Federal Reserve reported that consumer credit overall was up at an annual rate of 3.7%. Revolving debt — that’s mostly on credit cards — was up more than 11%.
After slowing down early in the pandemic, Americans’ “dance with debt” is speeding up again.
More broadly, prices are still rising sharply — and so are borrowing costs. But in spite of it all, American consumers keep spending it up, according to Ted Rossman at Bankrate.com.
“We’re seeing record-high credit card balances and record-high interest rates,” Rossman said.
And those interest rates, topping 20% in many cases, are making it harder for households to pay off their credit-card balances in full every month.
Low and middle-income households are having the most trouble, said Warren Kornfeld at Moody’s Analytics. Especially renters — who haven’t been able to build up home-equity as prices have risen — and many of whom have run through the stimulus and unemployment checks they banked during the pandemic.
“They’ve completely spent down excess savings,” Kornfeld said. “And inflation’s taking a material bite out of their budgets. Many of them are resorting to their credit cards to fund that spending.”
Credit card delinquencies are still well-below pre-pandemic level. But they’re rising fast, according to Kornfeld.
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