Consumer Borrowing in U.S. Increases by Most in Eight Months

American consumer borrowing rose in March by the most in eight months, helped by a rebound in credit card debt after two straight declines.

The $20.5 billion increase in total credit followed a revised $14.8 billion gain in the previous month, Federal Reserve figures showed Thursday in Washington. Revolving debt, which includes credit card balances, also advanced by the most since July.

Americans are becoming more willing to borrow as interest rates remain low and rising home values and stock-market gains shore up household finances. An improving job market also will sustain growth in consumer spending, the biggest part of the economy.

The median forecast of 32 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a $15.8 billion increase in credit after a previously reported $15.5 billion advance in February. Estimates ranged from gains of $12 billion to $20 billion.

The Fed’s consumer credit report doesn’t track debt secured by real estate, such as home equity lines of credit and home mortgages.

Revolving debt advanced by $4.4 billion following a $2.4 billion decrease, the Fed report showed.

Non-revolving debt, such as that for college tuition and the purchase of vehicles and mobile homes, jumped $16.2 billion after advancing $17.2 billion.

Student loans increased by $29.7 billion to $1.36 trillion in the first quarter on an unadjusted basis, the Fed’s figures showed. Borrowing for the purchase of motor vehicles climbed by $14.6 billion to $972.4 billion last quarter.

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