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Consumer Credit: Card Balances Edge Higher Into Year-End

February 7, 2022
Bottom Line: Consistent with slower retail sales in December, revolving credit grew only slightly in December after robust balance growth in October and November on the back of early holiday shopping. Revolving credit was moving sharply higher throughout most of last year but was still below its pre-pandemic trend as consumers benefited from extra stimulus cash. Nonrevolving credit, mostly student loans, rose at roughly the trend rate of the last year. Overall, the consumer remains strong with the aggregate balance sheet much improved since the fiscal stimulus. But there remain significant inequalities among household balance sheets. Some households ramped up credit balances again, while others still have substantial savings.
Consumer Credit ROSE by $18.9 billion in December, compared with market expectations for an increase of $21.9 billion.    Additionally, the prior two months were revised  lower by $2.5 billion. Over the prior year, consumer credit increased by $246.2 billion or 5.9%.
Revolving Credit
, including credit cards, ROSE by $2.1 billion. Over the past year, revolving credit has increased by $63.9 billion or 6.6%.
Non-Revolving Credit, including auto and education loans, ROSE  by $16.8 billion.  Over the past year, non-revolving credit has increased by $182.4 billion or 5.7%. Of this amount, $56.1 billion, or 30.8%, appears to be due to increases in student loans held by the federal government.