U.S. consumer borrowing increased in May as Americans took out more loans to buy cars.
The $19.6 billion increase in credit followed a revised $26.1 billion gain in April, according to Federal Reserve figures. Non-revolving credit, which includes auto and school loans, gained $17.8 billion in May, the biggest increase since February 2013, after climbing $17.3 billion in the previous month.
Revolving debt, which includes credit card balances, rose $1.79 billion, or 2.5%, in May following an $8.85 billion, or 12.3% gain, in April that was the biggest since November 2007. The April gain was the biggest in comparable data going back to December 2010. The report doesnt track mortgages, home-equity lines of credit, or other real estate-backed debt. There hasnt been back-to-back double-digit gains in credit card debt in more than a decade.
A median forecast of 33 economists called for a $20 billion increase as stronger employment and stock-market gains are giving consumers the confidence to take on more debt. The figures coincide with robust auto sales and greater demand for furniture and appliances tied to the real estate recovery, indicating the economy is rebounding from a first quarter slump.
Faster employment and wage gains are giving Americans the means to keep spending. Employers added 288,000 workers in June, and the unemployment rate fell to an almost six-year low of 6.1%, a report from the Labor Department showed last week. The 1.39 million increase in employment over the past six months was the biggest over a similar period since early 2006.
Consumer loans made by the federal government, mostly for school tuitions, increased by $4.4 billion before seasonal adjustment after rising $4.8 billion in April, according to the Federal Reserve's report. Stronger home sales are helping drive demand for home furnishings. Purchases of new properties rose in May by the most in 22 years as mortgage rates declined, Commerce Department figures showed last month. Car sales picked up in May, climbing to a 16.7 million annual rate from 16 million a month earlier, according to data from Wards Automotive Group. The pace accelerated last month, reaching 16.9 million, the fastest since July 2006.