Written by Steven Hansen
I have read over the Fed’s headline statement many times and am loss at correlating it to the data they presented.
Consumer credit increased at an annual rate of 4-1/4 percent in February. Revolving credit declined at an annual rate of 3-1/4 percent, while nonrevolving credit increased at an annual rate of 7-3/4 percent.
Here is what they should have said:
- Overall consumer credit increased 4.3% year-over-year – growth rate unchanged from last month
- Revolving credit increased 0.7% year-over-year – growth rate unchanged from last month
- Nonrevolving credit increased at an annual rate of 6.1% year-over-year – growth rate unchanged from last month.
- Februarys unadjusted consumer credit always contracts over Januarys – and student loans increased a statistically insignificant amount.
Econintersect spends time on this generally ignored data series as the USA is a consumer driven economy. One New Normal phenomenon is the consumer shift from a credit towards a cash society – a quantum shift which changes the amount of consumption. Watching consumer credit provides confirmation that this New Normal shift continues.
The Econintersect summary of the data based on unadjusted data:
|Year-over-Year Growth Rate||Change in rate of growth from Previous Month||Trend|
|Total Credit||4.3%||0.0%||six month and a general eleven month improving trend|
|Revolving credit||0.7%||0.0%||fourth month of YoY growth after 33 months of decline|
|Non-revolving credit||6.1%||0.0%||17 months with positive YoY growth|
If student loans are backed out, consumer credit contracted month-over-month at an annual rate of 7.6% – but is down 0.4% year-over-year.
Econintersect backs out student loans as they are currently consuming an unusual and inordinate portion of USA consumer loans. As overall consumer loans actually declined this month, and student loans grew an insignificant amount – the graph below is meaningless in conveying the distortion caused by student loans for the month of February.
Note: Student Loans have never declined during this period. Where student loans are shown at 100% of the growth, consumer credit (including student loans) declined in that particular month even though student loans outstanding increased.
A good background article was written by Frederick Sheehan.
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, education, boats, trailers, or vacations.
Caveats on the Use of Consumer Credit
This data series does not include mortgages, and is not inflation adjusted.
The graph below shows consumer credit outstanding (this data series does not include mortgages) is slightly less than 23% of annualized consumer spending – down from a high of over 26% in the 2000s, but still above the averages before the mid 1990s.
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.
Econintersect believes consumer credit levels are now in its historical channel from the 1990’s.