November 27, 2012 / 8:01 PM / in 5 years

U.S. consumer debt eases in Q3, student loans up: NY Fed

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. consumer debt fell in the third quarter as mortgage balances declined, even as other types of debt rose, including student loans, data from the New York Federal Reserve showed on Tuesday.

Total consumer debt dipped by 0.7 percent to $11.31 trillion compared to the second quarter, the New York Fed said in its quarterly household debt and credit report. Consumer debt has dropped by $1.37 trillion since the peak seen in the third quarter of 2008.

Mortgages were down 1.5 percent at $8.03 trillion, the lowest level since 2006, while balances on home equity lines of credit fell 2.7 percent. Mortgage originations rose for the fourth consecutive quarter, to $521 billion.

But excluding mortgages, debt jumped 2.3 percent to $2.7 trillion. Student debt, the largest component of household debt other than mortgages, rose $42 billion to $956 billion. Of that increase, $23 billion was new debt, while $19 billion was from previously defaulted student loans that were newly updated on credit reports in the quarter.

Auto loans rose by $18 billion and the amount owed on credit cards was up by $2 billion.

“The increase in mortgage originations, auto loans and credit card balances suggests that consumers are slowly gaining confidence in their financial position,” Donghoon Lee, senior economist at the New York Fed, said in a statement.

“As consumers feel more comfortable, they may start to make purchases that were previously delayed.”

Household delinquency rates improved slightly with 8.9 percent of debt in some stage of delinquency, down from 9 percent in the previous quarter. A total of 1.9 percent of current mortgages fell into delinquency during the quarter, roughly unchanged from the second quarter.

The number of credit account inquiries over six months - an indicator of consumer credit demand - edged lower to 167 million from 168 million.

Reporting by Leah Schnurr; Editing by Dale Hudson

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