US consumer borrowing expected to show further gains

MarketsAssociated Press

The Federal Reserve reports on consumer borrowing in September. The report will be released at 3 p.m. EST Friday.

BORROWING UP: The expectation is that borrowing increased by $15.5 billion in September, according to a survey of economists by data firm FactSet.

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CREDIT GAINS: In August, U.S. consumers boosted borrowing by $13.5 billion, led by rising auto loans and student loans. But consumers cut back on their credit card borrowing.

The strength in consumer borrowing has pushed consumer debt to record levels.

Rising levels of consumer borrowing coupled with strong employment growth are viewed as a good sign that consumers are more confident about taking on debt to finance purchases. Consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of economic activity.

The August increase in total borrowing put it 6.8 percent above a year ago. Auto and student loans are up 8.2 percent from a year ago while credit card debt has risen a smaller 3.2 percent.

The large increase in student debt has raised concerns that young Americans are being saddled with student loans that will keep them from buying homes or spending as previous generations have after college.

Student loans have soared since the recession ended, topping $1.1 trillion in the second quarter of this year. That's up from $700 billion in 2009 and in part a reflection of the number of people who either lost jobs.

The New York Federal Reserve reported that demand for auto loans reached the highest level in eight years this spring with more people with checkered credit histories obtaining the loans. That has raised worries about the potential for defaults down the road.

The Federal Reserve's monthly credit report does not cover mortgages or any other loans that are backed by real estate.