WASHINGTON – American consumers increased their borrowing by $20.5 billion in October. It was the biggest gain in 11 months and reflected strong increases in the use of credit cards and in auto and student loans.
The October followed a $19.2 billion gain in September and was the best showing since November 2016, the Federal Reserve reported Thursday.
The category that covers auto loans and student loans was up $12.2 billion, slightly slower than the $13.2 billion rise in September. Borrowing in the category that covers credit cards rose by $8.3 billion, up from a $6 billion increase in September and the strongest showing since November.
The solid gains were good signs for strength in consumer spending heading into the holiday shopping season. Consumer spending accounts for 70 per cent of economic activity.
Reports from the retailers have indicated a strong start to the holiday season with shoppers buying more than last year.
The U.S. economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, grew at a healthy rate of 3.3 per cent in the July-September quarter after a 3.1 per cent rate in the spring. It marked the first back-to-back quarterly gains above 3 per cent in three years.
The overall gain in borrowing pushed consumer credit to a new record of $3.8 trillion. The Federal Reserve’s monthly consumer credit report does not cover home mortgages or any other loans secured by real estate such as home equity loans.