WASHINGTON – Consumer borrowing fell in September by the largest amount since the recession of the early 1990s, weakened by a huge drop in auto loans.
The Federal Reserve reported Tuesday that consumer borrowing declined at an annual rate of 0.6 percent in September, compared with a 4.6 percent rate of increase in August. Borrowing fell by $1.2 billion in September — the biggest drop since a $1.78 billion decrease in April 1992.
It was the first decline since March, when borrowing marked a far milder decrease of 0.24 percent.
Borrowing for auto loans slipped at an annual rate of 3.2 percent in September, reversed from an increase of 3.5 percent the previous month, the report showed. September loans in that category dropped by $4.05 billion, the largest fall since the $4.81 billion decline in October 1991.
The overall economy has lost momentum due to the housing slump. The struggling auto industry slashed jobs last month, as did companies involved in home-building, furniture makers and real-estate firms — casualties of the souring housing market.
By contrast, the Fed report showed that borrowing in the category that includes credit cards rose at an annual rate of 4.0 percent in September. That was more anemic than the gain of 6.7 percent in August.
Both of those increases were below the double-digit gains in May and June, months in which economists believe consumers were using their credit cards as a way to cope with soaring energy prices.