Household Debt Barely Rose in First Quarter, New York Fed Says

U.S. consumer debt during the first three months of 2015 was little changed from the previous quarter as mortgage borrowing slowed, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York said Tuesday.

Household debt rose 0.2 percent, or $24 billion, to $11.85 trillion, marking the smallest increase since the second quarter of 2014, when debt levels declined, according to the New York Fed’s quarterly report on household debt and credit.

The tepid reading on debt levels chimes with a weak first quarter for the economy, when U.S. growth stalled amid harsh winter weather and delays at West Coast ports.

The level of debt was $201 billion higher than a year earlier in the first quarter of 2015, though it remains 6.5 percent below the peak of $12.68 trillion reached in the third quarter of 2008, the report showed.

“Tight standards on mortgage lending are reflected in both sluggish growth in housing debt as well as substantial reductions in mortgage delinquency and defaults,” Andrew Haughwout, senior vice president and economist at the New York Fed, said in a statement.

The report is based on data from the New York Fed’s Consumer Credit Panel, a nationally representative sample drawn from Equifax credit data.

Mortgage debt rose only $1 billion after advancing by $39 billion in the fourth quarter of last year, according to the report. About 112,000 individuals had a new foreclosure notation added to their credit reports, marking the lowest number in data going back to 1999.

Student-loan debt increased 2.8 percent from the fourth quarter, or $32 billion, to $1.19 trillion, and auto-loan debt advanced 1.4 percent, or $13 billion, to $968 billion. These gains were offset by a 2.3 percent, or $16 billion, decline in credit card debt, to $684 billion. Home-equity line of credit balances were unchanged at $510 billion in the first three months of 2015 after 13 straight quarters of decreases.

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