U.S. consumer credit surged in November by the most since November 2001, rising 10.0 percent on higher credit card debt and more student loans doled out by the government, a Federal Reserve report showed on Monday.
The $20.37 billion increase in outstanding consumer credit was nearly three times the median forecast in a Reuters poll, and the latest sign that lending was supporting economic growth.
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Revolving credit, which mostly measures credit-card use, rose $5.60 billion, the third straight monthly increase.
"Credit growth is a positive sign for the recovery in that it signals increasing demand and willingness to spend," said Paul Edelstein, an analyst at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts.
However, he added that there was a risk that credit growth could instead be a sign that chronic unemployment was leading more people to turn to credit to fund necessary spending.
It was the 13th increase in 14 months, and the biggest monthly jump since creditors boosted lending in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001 in New York and Washington.
Nonrevolving credit, which includes student and auto loans, rose a seasonally adjusted $14.78 billion in November.
Government lending to students appeared to be a significant factor in the increase, although those figures are only released in non-seasonally adjusted terms.
Student loans made by the federal government rose 31.9 percent in the 12 months through November. That kind of lending outperformed any other kind of non-revolving loans tracked by the Fed during those 12 months, including those made by commercial banks.