Ahead of the Bell: US consumer credit

US consumer credit likely expanded further in September but credit card use remains weak

Associated Press
News Summary: Americans cut back credit card use
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FILE -In this Wednesday, Sept. 25, file 2013, photo, customers exit a Dollar General store, in San Antonio. The Federal Reserve reports how much consumers borrowed in September on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Federal Reserve reports how much consumers borrowed in September. The report will be released at 3 p.m. Eastern Thursday.

MORE BORROWING: The forecast was that consumer borrowing would increase by $12 billion in September after a $13.6 billion gain in August.

BORROWING GAINS: The August increase pushed borrowing to a seasonally adjusted record of $3.04 trillion.

Americans took out more loans to buy cars and attend school but cut back on credit card use for a third straight month.

LAGGING CREDIT CARDS: The weakness in credit card use could hold back consumer spending which accounts for 70 percent of economic activity.

The measure of auto loans and student loans has risen 8.2 percent from a year ago and has increased in every month but one since May 2010.

But credit card debt is essentially where it was a year ago. And it is about 17 percent below its peak hit in July 2008 — seven months after the Great Recession began.

Slow job growth and small wage gains have made many Americans more reluctant to charge goods and services.

But at the same time, the weak economy is persuading more people to go back to school to learn new skills. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York quarterly report on consumer credit shows student loan debt has been the biggest driver of borrowing since the Great Recession officially ended in June 2009.

Analysts had hoped that consumers would step up spending and help drive faster economic growth in the final three months of the year.

But a partial government shutdown in October lasted 16 days and left thousands of government workers temporarily without paychecks.

That disruption is expected to hold back growth in the fourth quarter.

The Fed's borrowing report tracks credit card debt, auto loans and student loans but not mortgages, home equity loans and other loans secured by real estate.

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