Aggregate household debt balances were largely flat in the first quarter of 2015, according to the recently released Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Household Debt and Credit Report. As of the end of March, total household indebtedness was $11.85 trillion, a $24 billion, or 0.2 percent, increase during the first quarter of this year. The report is based on data from the New York Fed’s Consumer Credit Panel, a nationally representative sample drawn from anonymized Equifax credit data.
The slowdown in growth can be attributed to a negligible uptick in mortgage balances, which are the largest component of household debt. Mortgage balances stood at $8.17 trillion in the first quarter. Additionally, balances on home equity lines of credit (HELOC), which were $510 billion at the end of fourth quarter, 2014, were unchanged in the first quarter of this year.
Non-housing debt balances increased by 0.7 percent from the end of last year, largely due to increases in student loans ($32 billion) and auto loans ($13 billion). These gains were partially offset by a $16 billion decline in credit card balances.
Measures on delinquencies, foreclosures and bankruptcies all improved in the first quarter. The percentage of outstanding debt in some stage of delinquency fell to 5.7 percent from 6.0 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014, with continuing improvements in mortgages. About 112,000 individuals had a new foreclosure notation added to their credit reports in the first quarter of this year, the lowest total since at least 1999. Four percent fewer consumers had a bankruptcy notation added to their credit reports, bringing the quarterly total to its lowest point since early 2006.
“Tight standards on mortgage lending are reflected in both sluggish growth in housing debt as well as substantial reductions in mortgage delinquency and defaults,“ says Andrew Haughwout, senior vice president and economist at the New York Fed.
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