US consumer borrowing expected to show another big gain for November

Lifestyle and BudgetAssociated Press

The Federal Reserve releases its November report on consumer borrowing. The report will be issued Thursday at 3 p.m. Eastern.

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BORROWING UP: The expectation is that consumer borrowing increased by $15 billion in November, according to a survey of economists by data firm FactSet.

CONSUMER CREDIT: In October, consumers increased borrowing by $13.2 billion, a slightly slower pace than the $15.4 billion gain in September. All the new borrowing has pushed consumer credit, excluding real estate loans, to a record level of $3.28 trillion.

The category that includes credit card debt edged up by $922 million in October after a rise of $1.4 billion in September. The category that covers auto loans and student loans jumped by $12.3 billion after a $14 billion increase in September.

Economists expect that the strong gains in employment seen this year may make consumers more comfortable about increasing their use of credit cards, something they cut back on sharply following the Great Recession.

The Fed's monthly consumer credit report excludes mortgages and other loans secured by real estate. A quarterly report issued by the New York Federal Reserve Bank that tracks all types of consumer borrowing shows that total household debt, including home mortgages, increased by $78 billion in the July-September quarter to $11.7 trillion.

That is still slightly below the peak for total debt of $12.7 trillion reached in the third quarter of 2008 as the recession deepened and households began to cut back on their borrowing as millions of people lost jobs.

Because of the severity of the recession, consumers have been more hesitant about adding to debt. Mortgage debt has also been slower to recover from the millions of homes lost to foreclosures and because banks have since tightened lending standards.

But economists say that a stronger labor market may be setting the stage for increases in borrowing as consumers grow more confident.

The October increase in the Fed's monthly credit survey put total borrowing 6.7 percent above where it was a year ago. Auto and student loans are up 8.1 percent, though credit card debt has risen by a much smaller 3.1 percent.