WASHINGTON – Consumer credit grew moderately in March, as shoppers took out more loans for cars and other items, according to a Federal Reserve (search) report Friday.
U.S. consumer debt (search), excluding mortgage-related credit, grew by a smaller-than-expected $5.7 billion in March, the Fed said. February credit growth was revised down sharply, to a gain of about $900 million from the previously reported $4.1 billion gain. Wall Street economists had projected a $7.0 billion jump in borrowing.
The March gain was led by nonrevolving debt, which includes fixed-term loans for cars, boats, tuition expenses and other items.
The Fed report said nonrevolving credit grew $3.1 billion in March, after a revised $700 million gain in February.
Revolving credit, which tracks credit and charge card usage, advanced by $2.6 billion, up sharply from the revised $200 million gain in February.
Some economists have worried that households are taking on too much debt. But Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan (search), in a speech on Thursday, cast doubt on that concern. "Short of a period of overall economic weakness, households, with the exception of some highly leveraged subprime borrowers, do not appear to be faced with significant financial strain," he said.
Earlier Friday, a Fed survey of senior bank loan officers found bank standards and terms for consumer credit were little changed in the months leading up to April.