New consumer borrowing reached a five-year high in the first two months of the year, with new credit of $141 billion - up more than 33% from 2010 recession lows, led by auto loans and soaring student debt, according to credit reporting agency Equifax.
Auto loans, which rose 13% to $69.6 billion, accounted for nearly half of the year-over-year gains. Student loans jumped nearly 27%, from $9.2 billion to $11.7 billion.
"Consumers are tired of their old, patched-up cars and demand is really starting to pick up. At the same time, there is a slight increase in the willingness of lenders to finance car purchases for consumers with less than perfect credit," said Amy Crew Cutts, Equifax's chief economist.
Student borrowing is increasing "well beyond just tuition increases as more and more people are attending colleges and professional training," Cutts added. "In the past, some students might have relied on their parents who would have funded tuition payments using home equity lines of credit, but the small volume of home equity lending that is occurring today, at a little over $12 billion, is not sufficient to cover those costs."
Equifax said home equity lines of credit jumped nearly 16%, to $12.4 billion, during the first two months of 2013.
The national credit card delinquency rate - the ratio of borrowers 90 or more days past due - decreased to 0.69% in the first quarter ended March 31 from 0.85% in the year-ago period, according to credit reporting agency TransUnion. Average credit card debt per borrower declined to $4,878 in the first quarter.
"We traditionally see credit card delinquencies and balances decline during the first three months of the year as many people pay down their holiday shopping balances or use their tax refunds to pay off their debts," explained Ezra Becker, vice president of research and consulting in TransUnion's financial services business unit.
TransUnion expects credit card delinquencies to increase slightly in the second quarter of 2013.