Installment Debt Monday, Mar. 7

Consumers are expected to have expanded their January volume of outstanding installment debt by $5 billion, a bit less than the $7 billion or so increases in each of the three previous months. That's the median forecast by economists surveyed by MMS International, a unit of McGraw-Hill Inc. A dip in retail buying in January, largely reflecting the impact of the winter storms, probably limited the use of revolving credit, which accounted for about half of the $37 billion surge in installment debt during the second half of 1993. However, despite the hefty additions to households' debt loads, total credit as a percentage of consumers' aftertax income has not risen appreciably during the past year.