The latest report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reveals a concerning trend in American household finances. In the third quarter, the total household debt in the U.S. surged to $17.29 trillion, marking a significant 1.3% increase. A key driver of this rise is a notable surge in credit card debt, which swelled by 4.7% to reach $1.08 trillion. This uptick in credit card borrowing is largely attributed to robust consumer spending, underpinned by strong real GDP growth. However, this comes at a time of heightened economic uncertainty, characterized by rising interest rates and increased borrowing costs, particularly impacting sectors like housing.
An alarming aspect of the report is the rising delinquency rates. Overall debt delinquency increased to 3% by September, up from 2.6% in the previous quarter. Credit card delinquency rates showed a pronounced increase, especially among those aged 30 to 39 and those already burdened with auto or student loans. While these rates are still below the pre-pandemic levels, their upward trajectory is a source of concern.
In the context of student loans, the debt rose by $30 billion to a staggering $1.6 trillion, coinciding with the resumption of student loan payments after pandemic-induced suspensions. Auto loan balances also exhibited an upward trend, consistent since 2011, rising to $1.6 trillion in the third quarter.
Meanwhile, mortgage activities remained robust, with newly created mortgages totaling $386 billion and overall mortgage balances increasing to $12.14 trillion.
The New York Fed's report paints a complex picture of the American economy. On the one hand, there's evident consumer confidence and strong economic activity. On the other, there are signs of potential overextension in credit use and rising financial vulnerabilities, especially as the pandemic-era savings start to dwindle. The increase in delinquencies, despite the solid state of the economy, suggests that further analysis is needed to understand the underlying causes fully. This scenario demands close monitoring, as continued growth in debt and delinquency levels could be harbingers of broader economic challenges, particularly if the economic landscape shifts or borrowing costs escalate further.