The Week Ahead

INSTALLMENT CREDIT

Tuesday, Apr. 7, 3 p.m. EDT -- Consumers probably borrowed $4 billion more in new debt than they paid off in February. That's the median forecast by economists surveyed by Standard & Poor's MMS, a division of The McGraw-Hill Companies. Household debt rose by just $2.9 billion in January. Installment-credit growth has slowed over the past year, led by a steep easing in revolving debt, which includes credit cards. Less borrowing, together with the strong gains in personal income, means that the ratio of installment debt outstanding to disposable income has dropped to 20.3% so far in the first quarter, down from a record 20.8% in October, 1996. Moreover, consumers are managing their debt loads better. According to the American Bankers Assn., the percentage of credit-card accounts that were delinquent 30 days or more fell to 3.04% in the fourth quarter, from a record 3.72% a year earlier.

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