posted on 07 June 2015
Written by Steven Hansen
The headlines say consumer credit growth did accelerate moderately. Our analysis says consumer credit growth rate is slowing. Maybe there are seasonality issues in the adjusted data. Consumer credit annual growth rate significantly above GDP's annual growth rate - and repayment of consumer debt is taking a larger share of disposable income.
The headline said:
Unadjusted Consumer Credit Outstanding
Overall takeaways from this month's data:
The market expected consumer credit to expand $14.0 to $22.5 billion (consensus = $16.5 billion) versus the seasonally adjusted headline expansion of $20.5 billion reported.
Note that this consumer credit data series does not include mortgages.
The Econintersect analysis is different than the Fed's:
The commonality between the Fed and Econintersect analysis is that consumer credit is expanding whether one considers student loans or not. Econintersect does not believe the seasonal adjustment methods used in the headlines are accurately conveying the situation for a variety of reasons.
This month student loans accounted for 84 % of the growth of total consumer credit. Since the Great Recession, much of the increase in consumer credit had been from student loans. The following graph shows the flow into consumer credit including student loans (blue line) against the flow into student loans alone (red line).
Flow of Funds into Consumer Credit - Total Consumer Credit (blue line) vs Student Loans (red line)
Another way to view the effects of student loans on consumer credit is to view the year-over-year growth in $ billions of student loans as a percent of total consumer credit (including student loans). In short, student loans accounted for all consumer credit growth from 2009 to late 2011. Currently, the growth of consumer credit (blue line in graph below) is showing growth.
Year-over-Year Growth in $ Billions - Total Consumer Credit (blue line) vs Student Loans (red line)
Consider that student loans make up a large portion of assets of the Federal Government [from Econintersect contributor Doug Short]
And one final look at total consumer credit and the effect of student loans. The graph below removes student loans from total consumer credit outstanding.
Total Consumer Credit Outstanding - Total Consumer Credit (blue line) vs Total Consumer Credit without Student Loans (red line)
Econintersect spends time on this generally ignored data series because the USA is a consumer driven economy. One New Normal phenomenon has been the consumer shift from a credit towards an electronic payment (current account debit) society - a quantum shift which changes the amount of consumption. Watching consumer credit provides confirmation that this New Normal shift continues.
Year-over-Year Growth of Consumer Credit - Total (blue line), Revolving Credit (red line), and Non-Revolving (green line which includes student loans)
The Federal Reserve reports credit divided between revolving and non-revolving. The majority of revolving credit is from credit cards, while non-revolving credit includes automobile loans, student loans, and all other loans not included in revolving credit, such as loans for mobile homes, boats, trailers, or vacations.
Comparison Revolving Credit Total (blue line) to Non-Revolving Credit Total (red line)
A Look at Consumer Ability to Repay Credit
The percent of consumer disposable income used to repay consumer loans (not including mortgages).
Other Consumer Credit Data from Outside this Report:
The question remains on the rate of write-downs of consumer loans. The following graph addresses this question:
Net Charge-Offs on Consumer Credit
The next graph addresses the question of loan losses by the banks which have returned to historical norms:
Bank Net Loan Losses - Percent of Total Loans
This consumer credit release does not include mortgages. Here is what total household debt looks like. Please note that the mortgage data is not as current as the consumer credit data in this post.
Total Household Debt (includes mortgages blue line), mortgages (red line), and Consumer Credit talked about in this post (green line)
And just to make sure the data in the consumer credit report migrates to other reports, here is a graph from Z.1 Flow of Funds.
Total Consumer Credit Outstanding from Flow of Funds Z.1
Caveats on the Use of Consumer Credit
This data series does not include mortgages, and is not inflation adjusted. This whole series has undergone a major revision with the April 2012 Press Release:
The graph below shows consumer credit outstanding (this data series does not include mortgages) is now above a high of over 26% in the 2000s, and well above the averages before the mid 1990s.
Ratio of Total Consumer Loans Outstanding to Consumer Spending
To get a feel of inflation adjusted consumer credit, the following graph is inflation adjusted consumer credit using the CPI-U (less shelter) - this is expressing consumer credit in 1982 dollars. It is evident on an inflation adjusted basis, consumer credit is beginning to grow.
Inflation Adjusted Consumer Credit
Also, an interesting graphic showing the consumer's ratio of liquid assets to total liabilities - it is showing a rapidly expanding credit growth.
Ratio of Consumer Liquid Assets to Total Consumer Liabilities
Consumer credit is now fully recovered and may again be in the warning zone.
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