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Consumer credit: What does it all mean?

Feb 28, 2012 Philip Burgess

Rising credit card debt may be a concern to some consumers and market analysts, but debt collection firms may come to enjoy a surge in business as a result. While regulatory pressures and tight margins have limited revenue prospects for the industry, many experts anticipate greater activity in coming years. According to Federal Reserve data, credit card debt increased, albeit slightly, in 2011. This may point to improving consumer sentiment and a greater willingness to incur debt, or it may allude to a gradual deterioration of financial health among consumers. "Loan balances for six of the country's largest credit card issuers are set to grow this year for the first time in four years, as consumer confidence rises," The Wall Street Journal reported last month. This week, Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan reported an uptick in consumer confidence for February to mark the sixth straight month of consecutive growth. While such trends may offer hope for renewed credit levels in coming months, analysts point out that the swell was lower than expected and is still far from pre-recession levels.