WASHINGTON — The rate of borrowing by Americans declined for the first time in 10 years during August, a sign of building stress on household finances.
Consumer credit outstanding decreased $7.9 billion in August to $2.577 trillion, according to a Tuesday report from the Federal Reserve. That follows a $5.2 billion consumer credit increase in July, which is an upward revision from a previously estimated $4.6 billion increase.
The August credit fell far short of Wall Street predictions, which had forecast a $6.0 billion increase in credit for the month.
The 3.7% drop was the first decline since January 1998, when credit fell 4.3%, or $4.7 billion.
The slowdown suggests financial stress on U.S. households. Borrowing tends to slow with softer spending in a weakened economy.
The consumer credit data exclude home mortgages and other real estate-secured loans. These tend to be highly volatile from month to month and are frequently revised.
Revolving debt, which mostly reflects credit-card financing, fell in August at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 0.8%, or $612 million, to $969 billion. Credit in July rose 5.0%, or $4.0 billion, revised from an originally reported increase of $3.9 billion. Some households have relied on credit cards to fight off higher food and oil prices, declining home values, and tightened credit conditions.
Non-revolving credit decreased in August at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.4%, or $7.3 billion, to $1.608 trillion. Credit in July climbed 0.9%, or $1.2 billion, revised from an originally reported $678 million advance. Non-revolving credit is mainly automobile loans.