Consumer borrowing in the U.S. increased in February as the value of non-revolving debt climbed by the most since July 2011.
The $15.5 billion advance in household credit followed a $10.8 billion gain in January that was smaller than initially reported, Federal Reserve figures showed Tuesday in Washington. A surge in non-revolving loans such as those for automobile purchases and education more than offset the biggest drop in revolving credit since November 2010.
Consumers burned by mounting debt during the recession will need to see economic improvement in the way of wage gains and job growth to feel more comfortable boosting their borrowing. While households have been willing to take out loans for education and vehicles, they’ve remained reluctant to break out the plastic for other spending.
The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for a $12.5 billion February gain. Estimates of the 31 economists ranged from increases of $5.5 billion to $16 billion. The report doesn’t track debt secured by real estate, such as mortgages and home equity lines of credit.
Revolving debt, which includes credit-card spending, decreased by $3.7 billion in February after a $1 billion decline the month before, the figures showed.
Non-revolving credit, such as that for college tuition and the purchase of vehicles and mobile homes, increased by $19.2 billion after January’s $11.8 billion gain.
Lending to consumers by the federal government, mainly for student loans, rose by $6.4 billion before adjusting for seasonal variations after surging $27.9 billion in January.