Consumer debt hits new record of $14.3 trillion

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  • Household debt rose to $14.3 trillion through the first three months of 2020.
  • That’s $1.6 trillion higher than the record set in the middle of the financial crisis.
  • Credit card debt actually fell during the period, helping to offset rises in education and auto borrowing.
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Consumer debt hit a fresh record high to start 2020, even as credit card balances declined while Americans adjusted to the coronavirus pandemic.

Household debt balances through March totaled $14.3 trillion, a 1.1% increase from the previous quarter and now $1.6 trillion clear of the previous nominal high of $12.7 trillion in the third quarter of 2008 during the financial crisis, according to New York Federal Reserve data released Tuesday.

However, one area posted a notable decline.

Credit card balances fell $34 billion, a drop that helped offset non-housing balance increases of $27 billion in student loans and $15 billion in auto debt. Mortgage balances rose $156 billion to $9.71 trillion.

“The credit card balance decline was notably larger than the same period last year, which may reflect the early signs of decreased consumer spending due to COVID-19,” the New York Fed said in a release.

That decrease in card balances came even though total credit limits increased by $34 billion, leaving $3 trillion in available credit lines.

Consumers have retrenched of late has much of the $22.5 trillion U.S. economy has been shut down to try to halt the coronavirus spread. Retail sales numbers have dropped sharply amid a slide in consumer confidence.

After the modest uptick in the first quarter, student loan debt now totals $1.54 trillion. Some 10.8% of the debt was 90 days or more delinquent. Overall debt delinquency ticked down to a 4.6% rate.

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