WASHINGTON – Consumers borrowed more freely in September, especially when it came to racking up charges on their credit cards, the Federal Reserve (search) reported Friday.
The latest snapshot of people's appetite to borrow showed that U.S. consumer credit (search) rose by a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.8 percent in September from the previous month, or by $9.8 billion.
The increase left Americans' consumer credit outstanding at $2.05 trillion.
The figures are consistent with a strong retail sales report for September released by the government last month. That report suggested shoppers ignored soaring energy prices and rediscovered their urge to splurge.
Consumers took a bit of a breather in August, when consumer credit grew at a 1.3 percent rate, or by $2.2 billion, according to revised figures. Still, that turned out to be more brisk than the cutback in borrowing the Fed initially estimated for August.
The Fed's report includes credit card debt (search) and loans for such items as boats, cars and mobile homes. It does not include real-estate loans, such as home mortgages or popular home-equity loans.
In September, demand for revolving credit, such as credit cards, led the way. Such borrowing surged at a 10 percent annual rate, or by $6.2 billion, from the previous month. That represented the biggest gain since January. In August, revolving credit had dropped by $2.1 billion, or at a 3.3 percent annual rate.
Demand for nonrevolving credit, which includes loans for cars, vacations and education, rose at a 3.4 percent rate, or $3.7 billion in September. That compared with a 4 percent growth rate in August, an increase of $4.3 billion.
Consumers' spending accounts for roughly two-thirds of economic activity in the United States. Thus their behavior is closely watched by economists.
A government report on Friday that showed companies stepped up hiring in October offered an encouraging sign that consumers will keep pocketbooks and wallets open sufficiently wide in coming months to support economic activity, analysts said.