NEW YORK – Consumer debt in the U.S. rose last quarter by the most in more than six years as Americans borrowed to buy homes and cars and to pay for education, according to a survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Household debt increased 2.1 percent, or $241 billion, to $11.52 trillion, the biggest gain since the third quarter of 2007, the survey showed. The level of debt last quarter was $180 billion higher than a year earlier, the report showed.
“After a long period of deleveraging, households are borrowing again,” Wilbert van der Klaauw, senior vice president and economist at the New York Fed, said in a statement.
Total indebtedness remains 9.1 percent below the peak of $12.68 trillion in the third quarter of 2008, the survey showed.
Mortgage balances led the rise during the quarter, increasing 1.9 percent, or $152 billion, to $8.05 trillion, the survey showed. Foreclosures are at the lowest levels since the end of 2005.
Auto debt expanded $18 billion to $863 billion during the fourth quarter. Credit-card borrowing climbed $11 billion to $683 billion.
Delinquency rates continued to drop in the fourth quarter, with 7.1 percent of outstanding debt in some stage of delinquency, down from 7.4 percent in the third quarter. There were about 332,000 new bankruptcies during the fourth quarter, little changed from a year earlier.
From the fourth quarter of 2012 to the end of last year, student-loan debt swelled the most in dollar terms, increasing $114 billion to $1.08 trillion. In the last three months of 2013, education borrowing rose $53 billion.
The New York Fed’s report is based on data compiled by the bank’s Consumer Credit Panel, a nationally representative random sample from Equifax Inc. credit-report data.
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