Quoted – Consumer credit unexpectedly declines to 3-month low

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Consumer credit unexpectedly declines to 3-month low

Borrowing by U.S. consumers decreased in February, more than economists anticipated, a sign consumers are still reluctant to take on debt without continued improvement in the job market.

Consumer credit, encompassing credit card debt and non-revolving loans, decreased $11.5 billion, or 5.5 percent at an annual rate, the Federal Reserve said Wednesday.  Economists polled by Bloomberg LP estimated a decrease of only $700 million.

The February measure is just another indication that consumer spending, which accounts for roughly 70 percent of economic activity, will continue to stay put until households begin to feel more optimistic about the labor market.

Scott Testa, professor of business administration at Cabrini College in Philadelphia, Pa., said that despite the encouraging news on the job front, job security is still hampering consumer spending. “People are much more frugal when they know they are going to lose their jobs, or they are already out of work,” said Testa, who pointed to the importance of credit to the success of the U.S. economy. “We are a nation of credit cards, we love buying,” said Testa. “Unfortunately that puts us in a position where we have high debt levels.”

http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=162693

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