Americans Borrow for Cars, Less So for Homes

August 15, 2014
Wall Street Journal 
Borrowing by Americans fell for the first time in three quarters. Total outstanding debt -- including mortgages, credit cards, auto loans, student loans, and home equity lines of credit -- declined $18 billion between April and June to $11.63 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

New mortgages extended during the period fell to $286 billion -- the lowest level since 2000 and just half of the $589 billion volume in the second quarter of last year. Total mortgage debt outstanding shrank by $69 billion from the prior quarter to $8.09 trillion. Also, home-equity lines of credit fell by $5 billion on a quarterly basis to $521 billion.

The 14-year low in mortgage lending offset a new peak in auto lending, which hit the fastest pace in almost eight years. Credit-card debt outstanding increased $10 billion to reach $669 billion but remained slightly below year-ago levels.

Overall, the report suggests Americans continue to recover from the recession by paring existing debt and taking on new loans judiciously. The nation's student loan debt, however, continues to climb. Balances swelled by $7 billion in the second quarter, raising the national tally to $1.12 trillion.

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