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Consumer credit surpasses expectations and climbs by $19.3 billion in December

Feb 10, 2012 Phil Burgess

The increase in December consumer borrowing was greater than analysts' projected, as a surge in demand for auto and student loans contributed to a net $19.3 billion rise in credit, according to data released this week by the U.S. Federal Reserve. While increases in consumer borrowing entail higher debt loads, they often correlate with improved confidence and spending activity. The total volume of debt held by Americans now stands at $2.5 trillion. For the year, total consumer debt climbed by 3.7 percent - the largest gain since 2007. "[Consumers] are willing to take on this debt because there is some increasing degree of confidence in the economy," said Ken Mayland, president of ClearView Economics told Bloomberg. "Consumers over the past several years have done a pretty good job of repairing their balance sheets." Gains in employment may be behind both increased consumer spending and debt accumulation. However, a survey of bankruptcy lawyers released this week by the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys concluded that student debt is emerging as a national concern with potential repercussions reminiscent of the mortgage crisis, underscoring the need for lenders to employ stringent consumer credit risk management policies.