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Consumer Credit Rises In January, Boosted By Auto Loans

Consumers' borrowing increased in January, reflecting an increase in auto loans.

The Federal Reserve reported Wednesday that consumer credit rose at a 3.2% annual rate in January, up from December's 2.5% increase.

The gain was in line with expectations of analysts who believe that debt levels will grow more slowly this year as consumers try to adjust their personal finances in light of record levels of consumer debt.

"The high debt levels that many consumers are carrying will be a factor governing their borrowing behavior," said Bill Hampel, chief economist for the Credit Union National Association, an industry trade group. "Some of the steam will be coming out of consumer spending."

The category that includes auto loans rose at an annual rate of 4.4% in January, up sharply from December's 2.9% increase.

However, the category of debt that includes credit cards slowed further in January, rising at a 1.1% rate, down from a 1.9% increase in December. Credit card debt had surged ahead at a 14.7% rate in November.

The increased borrowing pushed total consumer debt up by $6.4 billion to a record $2.41 trillion in January.

The Federal Reserve measure of consumer borrowing does not include mortgages or other loans secured by real estate.

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