ATLANTA (12/16/14)--Non-mortgage credit balances in the United States topped $3.1 trillion in November, the highest level in more than five years, according to Equifax.
Auto-loan balances climbed 9.6% annually in November to $965 billion; retail-issued credit card balances jumped 4.8% to $71 billion; and bank-issued credit cards increased 4.7% to $611.7 billion.
The total balance of non-mortgage write-offs through November was $73.4 billion, the second-lowest level in eight years, according to Equifax. Further, the total balance of home-finance write-offs through November was $91.2 billion, also the second-lowest in eight years.
"The Great Deleveraging has clearly ended and U.S. consumers are back in the borrowing business, but how they borrow has greatly changed from prior to the Great Recession," said Amy Crews Cutts, senior vice president/senior economist at Equifax. "Today, while auto loans make up 30.9% of non-mortgage consumer debt--just as they did in December 2007 at the recession's start--student loans have grown from 20.2% to a whopping 37.3%, and bank- and retailer-issued credit cards are down to 21.9% of consumer debt from 31.4%.
"One way to read this change is that consumers now value investment (in their education and durable goods like cars) over immediate consumption, which is good for our economy over the long run," Crews Cutts said. "But, with the exception of new-car production, sluggish consumption slows economic growth in the short term, partially explaining the slower-than-hoped-for economic recovery."
Additional data from the report: