WASHINGTON – U.S. consumer borrowing fell in November for a second straight month, the first time that has occurred in more than 13 years.
The Federal Reserve reported Monday that borrowing declined at an annual rate of $648.8 million in November following a record rate of decline of $8.4 billion in October.
The weakness in November caught analysts by surprise. They had been expecting a rebound in borrowing based on the fact that consumer spending and consumer confidence both revived in November, reflecting a drop in gasoline prices.
The $8.4 billion rate of decline in borrowing in October was a record for a single month and reflected a sharp drop in auto sales, which had soared during the summer as automakers offered attractive sales incentives.
Expressed in percentage terms, consumer credit edged down at an annual rate of 0.4 percent in November after having fallen at a 4.7 percent rate in October.
Consumer credit posted sizable gains in July and August above 6 percent, reflecting the surge in auto sales. In September, consumer credit had risen at an annual rate of 2.8 percent.
By category, credit card debt and other revolving loans edged up a slight 0.5 percent in November at an annual rate after having fallen by 2.8 percent in October.
Non-revolving debt, the category that includes auto loans, fell for a third consecutive month, dropping 0.9 percent after having declined 5.8 percent in October and 0.3 percent in September.
The decline in overall borrowing pushed consumer debt in the categories tracked by the Fed down to $2.156 trillion in November, slightly below the all-time high of $2.165 trillion set in September.