Increasing debt is the not only a problem for the federal government; it’s also a growing burden for U.S. consumers.
According to the New York Fed’s latest Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit, household debt rose in 2017 for the fifth consecutive year. In the fourth quarter of 2017, household debt grew 1.5% from the third quarter to $13.15 trillion. That’s equivalent to 68% of U.S. GDP.
Debt increased in all major categories: in mortgages (1.6%), student loans (up 1.5%), auto loans (up 0.7%) and credit cards (up 3.2%), but fell 0.9% for home equity loans.
Although credit card debt led the fourth-quarter debt increase, consumers owe far less in credit card debt than in all other major categories, just $834 billion, compared with $8.88 trillion for mortgages, $1.38 trillion for student loans and $1.22 trillion for auto loans.
Delinquency rates for consumer debt, defined as 90 days or more overdue, fell slightly in the fourth quarter, from 2.4% to 2.3%, and student loan delinquencies continued to lead. The delinquency rate for student loans stood at 9.3% for the fourth quarter, down from 9.6% in the third quarter, but it was more than twice the 4.6% delinquency rate for credit card debt.
Moreover, according to the New York Fed report, the effective delinquency rate for student loans is roughly twice as high as 9.3% because many loans are currently in deferment, in grace periods or in forbearance and therefore temporarily excluded from the repayment cycle.
Although mortgage balances grew slightly in the fourth quarter, they remain 4.4% below their peak level in the third quarter of 2009, and mortgage originations, which include refinanced mortgages, fell slightly from $479 billion to $452 billion in the fourth quarter.
“Despite recovered house prices, mortgage balances remain far below their previous peaks in the states that were hardest hit by the Great Recession,” said Donghoon Lee, research officer at the New York Fed, in a statement.
Auto loan originations also slipped in the fourth quarter to $137 billion but recorded their highest annual volume in 2017, based on New York Fed data.
— Check out Powell Suggests Fed Will Hike Rates Despite Stock Market Rout on ThinkAdvisor.