The Federal Reserve's report on consumer borrowing, to be released late in the day Friday, is expected to show borrowing increased by $15.6 billion in April, according to a survey of economists by FactSet, a financial data firm.
Borrowing gains typically indicate people are more willing to take on debt and more confident about their finances. Consumer spending accounts for 70% of U.S. economic activity.
Another quarterly report on consumer credit from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shows that student loan debt has been the biggest driver of consumer borrowing since the recession ended in June 2009. Concerns about rising student loan debt and the economic impact recently have put the issue under the spotlight of Congress. Deputy Treasury Secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin also has made the buildup in student debt one of her top priorities.
Consumer borrowing in March increased by $17.5 billion, the largest increase in a year, as consumers ramped up their use of credit cards and took out more auto and student loans. That increase was bigger than projected and followed a revised $13 billion February. Non-revolving loans in March, including borrowing for cars and college tuition, rose by the most in six months to $16.4 billion, up 8.7% following an 8.4% gain in February.
Credit card borrowing plunged during the recession as consumers tried to lower their debt as millions of people lost their jobs and many people still working feared the threat of layoffs. Credit card use began to rebound in 2011 but the increases have lagged far behind the category that covers auto and student loans, with consumers still apprehensive about taking on high-interest debt.
The measure of auto loans and student loans in March stood at $2.28 trillion, up 7.8% from a year ago.