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Consumer debt falls in third quarter

November 28, 2011

U.S. consumer debt fell during July through September, pushed down by declines in mortgage balances, the New York Federal Reserve said on Monday.

The report showed households continuing to shed debt and dig out from losses following the collapse of housing markets and the 2007-2009 recession.

Total consumer credit was 0.6 percent below its second quarter level, the New York Fed said in its quarterly Household Debt and Credit report.

"The decline in outstanding consumer credit reveals that households continue to try and deleverage in the wake of a challenging economic environment and large declines in home values," said Andrew Haughwout, an economist in the New York Fed's research and statistics group.

Mortgage balances fell by 1.3 percent during the quarter, partially offsetting gains registered earlier in the year, the New York Fed said.

A number of data points pointed to households continuing to struggle with debt.

Total household delinquency rates rose in the quarter, while mortgage originations fell to the lowest level since mid-2000, the regional Fed bank said. The number of mortgages falling into delinquency during the quarter rose, reversing a trend of declines.

One bright spot was that the number of credit account inquiries over six months -- an indicator of consumer credit demand -- continued to rise.

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