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Consumer borrowing climbs again

January 09, 2008|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Consumer borrowing rose again in November as credit card debt shot up by the largest amount in six months.

The Federal Reserve reported Tuesday that consumer borrowing climbed at an annual rate of 7.4% in November, far higher than the 1% rise in October.

The category that includes credit card debt surged at an annual rate of 11.3%, a six-month high, an indication that shoppers were relying heavily on credit cards to finance purchases since home equity lines of credit became harder to get.

The class that includes auto loans also increased in November, rising at a rate of 5.1% after having fallen by 3.5% in October.

The 7.4% overall increase in credit pushed total credit up by $15.4 billion -- much stronger than the $8.5-billion increase that analysts had expected.

The 11.3% rise in credit card debt was the seventh straight month of strong gains in this area and was the biggest jump since a 12.8% rise in May.

Economists think consumers are being forced to rely more heavily on borrowing on their credit cards with the collapse of the housing market, which has depressed home prices and prompted banks to tighten lending standards for mortgages and home equity lines of credit.

The five-year housing boom had prompted a lot of homeowners to refinance mortgages and take out home equity lines of credit to take advantage of the surging values of their homes -- a boom that is being reversed in many parts of the country by the housing slump.

The overall increase left total consumer credit at a record $2.51 trillion.

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