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WASHINGTON, Jan 8 (Reuters) - U.S. consumer credit rose in November for the fourth straight month, beating expectations and giving a hopeful sign for the strength of the economy.
The Federal Reserve said on Tuesday consumer credit increased by $16.05 billion in November after rising by a slightly revised $14.08 billion in October.
Credit has been expanding almost continuously since mid-2010 as the country recovered from the 2007-09 recession, and the recent expansion could boost economic growth by helping consumers spend more on cars and education.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast consumer credit rising $12.75 billion after advancing by a previously reported $14.2 billion in October.
Still, the data also showed that Americans appeared to use their credit cards more sparingly in November, a potentially worrisome sign for consumer spending.
Nearly all of November's increase was in non-revolving credit, which includes auto loans as well as student loans made by the government. Non-revolving credit increased $15.23 billion during the month.
While the Fed doesn't provide seasonally adjusted data for student loans made by the government, year-over-year growth in that category of lending held firm in November.
Government-made student loans advanced 28 percent from a year earlier, the same pace as in October. That is below the recent high of 81 percent clocked in September 2010.
Revolving credit, which includes credit cards, climbed by a modest $817 million.
Growth in revolving credit has been choppier than overall consumer lending. Revolving credit expanded in just three of the six months through November.