Consumer borrowing took a breathtaking and record-breaking fall in November, according to figures released yesterday by the Federal Reserve.
Revolving consumer credit dropped almost 18% from a year earlier fueling a $17.5 billion drop in borrowing and credit card balances in October.
The AP reported that the string of ten consecutive months in falling credit was a record and the absolute drop in total dollars loaned from October to November was the largest since the government began tracking the data in 1943.
The data is certain to raise the question of how the American economy will sustain a recovery since consumer spending is still over two-third of GDP. Industrial production and exports have begun to recovery from the depths of the recession in the first and second quarters of 2009. But, the consumers still appear to be in deep trouble.
Consumer credit use is not likely to reverse its decline anything soon. December unemployment figures made two things crystal clear. The first is the business are still firing people. The other is the more people have stopped looking for jobs entirely.
Banks remain reluctant to make loans to consumers due to high default rates. Many credit card companies are still closing unused credit lines and are also adding stiff restrictions to the use of cards among people who pay balances late.
Between the unemployment number and the sharp reduction of credit balances, January 8, 2010 may be remembered as another Black Friday.
Douglas A. McIntyre