Non-Mortgage Consumer Debt Accelerates

The Federal Reserve Board reported that consumer credit outstanding grew by a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 7.0% over the third quarter of 2016, 0.6 percentage point faster than the 6.4% rate of growth in the second quarter. There is now $3.71 trillion in outstanding consumer credit.

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Growth in the outstanding amount of consumer credit overall reflected an increase in both revolving and non-revolving credit. Revolving credit is largely composed of credit card debt while non-revolving credit includes both student and auto loans. Over the third quarter, revolving credit rose by 7.6% and now totals $2.73 trillion while non-revolving credit climbed 5.2% reaching $979 billion.

Growth in consumer credit has been accelerating on a quarter-over-quarter basis in 2016. According to Figure 1, since falling to 5.6% growth in the first quarter of 2016, each subsequent quarter has experienced a faster rate of growth. In the second quarter of 2016, growth rates of both revolving and non-revolving credit recorded higher rates of growth relative to the first. However, in the third quarter, growth in non-revolving credit accelerated again while the growth of revolving credit decelerated.

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Information from the most recent iteration of the Federal Reserve Board’s Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey (SLOOS) provides some insight into the slowdown in the growth of revolving credit over the quarter. The SLOOS, among other questions, asks banks, who are the largest holder of revolving credit debt, about the supply and demand for credit card debt. In the most recent iteration, the SLOOS also asked about the likelihood of a respondent’s bank approving an application for a credit card to a borrower with a given FICO score now relative to 3 months ago. The FICO score options were 620, 680, and 720 and all other borrower characteristics were to remain “typical”*.

Figure 2 above depicts the results from the SLOOS. The “Net” is the difference between the percentage of banks reporting that they were “More likely” now than 3 months ago to approve the credit card application and the proportion of banks that were “Less likely” to do so. On net, banks were less likely to approve a credit card application for a prospective borrower with a FICO score of 620 and were more likely on net to approve an application for prospective borrower with a FICO score of 720. At a FICO score of 680 banks were neutral on net, the same portion of banks reported both more likely and less likely to approve a credit card application for a borrower with that credit score.

* Specifically, the question is “In comparison to three months ago, how much more or less likely is your bank to approve an application for a credit card to a borrower with the stated FICO score (or equivalent)? In each case assume that all other borrower characteristics are typical for credit card applications with that FICO score (or equivalent).”



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