Household borrowing surged in March at the fastest pace since November 2001 as financing for automobiles picked up and Americans' outstanding credit-card debt soared.
The $29.7 billion increase, or an annualized 10 percent, exceeded the highest estimate in a Bloomberg survey and followed a revised $14.1 billion gain the prior month, Federal Reserve figures showed Friday. Revolving credit, which includes credit-card spending, posted the biggest annualized advance since July 2000.
With employers still hiring at a decent clip, consumers may be growing more comfortable carrying bigger credit-card balances and taking out car loans. The pickup in March helped drive up household borrowing in the first quarter to a 6.4 annualized pace, compared with a 6.2 percent rate in the final three months of 2015.
Revolving debt jumped by $11.1 billion in March, or an annualized 14.2 percent, after a $2.9 billion increase, the Fed's report showed.
Non-revolving debt, which includes loans for education and automobile and mobile home purchases, increased $18.6 billion, the most since September.
In the first quarter, student loans outstanding climbed $31.7 billion and lending for auto purchases increased $13.5 billion.
The median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a $16 billion rise in total consumer credit, with estimates ranging from $5 billion to $24 billion. The February reading was previously reported as an advance of $17.2 billion.
The Fed's consumer credit report doesn't track debt secured by real estate, such as home equity lines of credit and home mortgages.