Press Release
Consumer Debt Falls in Third Quarter
November 28, 2011
NEW YORK—Aggregate consumer debt fell approximately $60 billion to $11.66 trillion in the third quarter of 2011 according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s latest Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit. Total consumer indebtedness decreased roughly 0.6 percent from revised second quarter findings of $11.72 trillion.1 The newly issued report also presents information on various aspects of consumer debt, including continuing and emerging trends for mortgage balances, delinquencies, foreclosures and other consumer credit activity.

"The decline in outstanding consumer debt reveals that households continue to try and deleverage in the wake of a challenging economic environment and large declines in home values," said Andrew Haughwout, vice president in the Research and Statistics Group at the New York Fed. "However, our findings also provide evidence that consumer credit demand continues to increase, a positive sign for consumer sentiment."

Highlights from the report include:

  • Mortgage balances on consumer credit reports fell by approximately $114 billion or 1.3 percent over the third quarter while home equity lines of credit balances increased by roughly $14 billion or 2.3 percent.
  • Non-real estate indebtedness now stands at $2.62 trillion, about 1.3 percent above its Q2 level.
  • Aggregate credit card limits declined by about $25 billion slightly offsetting increases from earlier this year.
    • Open credit card accounts declined by 6 million to 383 million in the third quarter and credit card borrowing limits fell again, partially offsetting some gains seen earlier in the year.
    • Open credit card accounts for third quarter were approximately 23 percent below the peak in second quarter 2008 and balances on those cards were nearly 20 percent below their highest levels in fourth quarter 2008.
    • Credit account inquiries within six months, an indicator of consumer credit demand, increased for the second quarter in a row.
  • Overall delinquency rates increased to 10 percent as of the end of September, compared with 9.8 percent at the end of June.
    • Approximately $1.2 trillion of consumer debt is delinquent with $834 billion being seriously delinquent (more than 90 days).
    • About 2.5 percent of current mortgage balances transitioned into delinquency in the third quarter, reversing a recent trend of reductions in this measure.
  • New foreclosures decreased 7 percent quarter over quarter and bankruptcies declined
    18.8 percent year over year.

About the New York Fed's Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit
The New York Fed's Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit is aimed at helping community groups, small businesses, state and local government agencies and the public to better understand, monitor and respond to trends in borrowing and indebtedness at the household level. The household debt and credit report is updated quarterly and includes such categories as the number of bankruptcies, per capita debt levels, total debt levels and composition of debt, new originations of installment loans, total balance by delinquency status, foreclosures and new delinquencies by loan type for the U.S. and select states. The report is based on data from the New York Fed's Consumer Credit Panel, which represents a nationally representative random sample drawn from Equifax credit report data. Sections of the report are presented as interactive graphs on the New York Fed's Credit Conditions web page and the full report is available for download.

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1The revised numbers reflect improvements in the measurement of student loan balances which had previously been undercounted. As a result, student loan and total debt balances for second and third quarter 2011 are not directly comparable to earlier data. Other components of household debt are unaffected by this change. Further details are available in the report.

Media Contact:
Matthew Ward
(212) 720-6885
matthew.ward@ny.frb.org 

Andrea Priest
(212) 720-6139
andrea.priest@ny.frb.org

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