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Fed: Consumer borrowing jumps at highest rate since 2001

Jan 19, 2012 Philip Burgess

U.S. consumer borrowing surged in November at the highest monthly rate in more than decade. According to data released this week by the Federal Reserve, borrowing climbed by $20.4 billion in November to reach $2.48 trillion. Credit card debt increased by $5.6 billion - the most since March 2008 - while auto loans rose by $14.8 billion. Credit has been rising for the past three months, reflecting general improvements in the job market. Last week, the Department of Labor reported a national unemployment rate of 8.5 percent, a considerable dip. "The third consecutive monthly increase in overall borrowing is a departure from the thriftier habits practiced during and immediately after the recession, when credit tumbled and the savings rate climbed," reports The Associated Press. "Many Americans are taking on more debt as the unemployment rate drops and the economy improves, albeit modestly." Despite the improvement in borrowing activity, a number of analysts fear the first months of 2012 will be marked by slow spending, as consumers begin to pay off debt and bills incurred from the holiday shopping season.