Overall consumer credit in the U.S. jumped $13.8 billion in June even as revolving debt, primarily credit card spending, fell by $2.7 billion. That drop followed a $6.4 billion jump a month earlier, the largest of the year, according to Federal Reserve figures.
Non-revolving borrowing, which includes auto financing and school loans, increased by $16.5 billion after an $11.1 billion gain in May. It was the largest jump in four months.
Demand for vehicles is a source of strength for the economy, helping drive gains in non-revolving credit. Cars and light trucks sold at a 15.6 million annualized rate last month and 15.9 million in June, the strongest back-to-back readings since late 2007, according to figures from Wards Automotive Group.
Gains in housing prices and stock portfolios are putting consumers in a position to take advantage of historically low interest rates for big-ticket purchases such as automobiles. At the same time, Americans cut back on credit card use as the effects of a higher payroll tax limited take-home pay.
Auto credit seems to be pretty widely available and the demand for new cars has been strong as well, and both of those are probably going to continue through the end of the year, said Tom Simons, an economist at Jefferies LLC in New York, who projected a $14 billion increase in credit. We still see a consumer that is reticent to borrow in order to make purchases other than autos.
Ezra Becker, vice president of research and consulting in TransUnions financial services business unit, said the Federal Reserve numbers are similar to TransUnion's data, which showed an increase of approximately $13.5 billion in consumer debt from end of the first quarter to the end of second quarter, excluding mortgage debt.
"Since Q2 2012, TransUnion reports that non-mortgage consumer debt has increased by $115 billion. A factor complementary to this increase is that consumer credit risk is also improving. Over the last quarter, TransUnions Credit Risk Index (CRI) has dropped to 115.9 at the end of June 2013 from 118.6 in March 2013, and down 5% from 122.0 in June 2012 - lower numbers indicate better risk. The CRI peaked in December 2009 at 129.7.