Americans are worried about a looming credit crunch. That’s a big problem for an economy that runs on credit cards.
One of the reasons for economic optimism you’ll hear bandied about out there in the mainstream is “the American consumer is strong” and consumer spending is “holding up” despite price inflation. But nobody seems to ask an important question: how have Americans been able to continue spending?
In July, the mainstream financial media breathlessly reported that consumer spending was “holding up” based on better-than-expected retail sales. But how did consumers manage to spend all of that money?
They borrowed it.
After a pause in June, American consumers went back to charging up their credit cards in July.
Since price inflation took off in the wake of pandemic-era stimulus, Americans have blown through their savings and run up their credit cards to make ends meet. Now they’re starting to have a hard time paying those credit card bills.
The number of Americans rolling credit card debt from month to month is now higher than the number of people paying their bills in full for the first time ever.
Flashing another recession warning sign, credit card spending suddenly fell off a cliff in June.
American consumers have been using credit cards to make ends meet for months, but with credit card debt at record levels, rising interest rates appear to have slammed the door on spending. Credit card debt contracted in June for the first time since April 2021, according to the most recent data released by the Federal Reserve.
Americans continued to run up credit card debt in May, but borrowing for big-ticket items tanked. This could indicate that cash-strapped, over-leveraged consumers are reaching the end of the rope.
American consumers borrowed another $7.2 billion in May, increasing total consumer debt to a record $4.865 trillion, according to the latest data released by the Federal Reserve.
Despite the high interest environment intended to slow down borrowing, American consumers continue to run deeper and deeper into debt as they cope with sticky inflation.
Consumer credit spiked by another $20 billion in April, a 5.7% increase year on year, according to the latest data released by the Federal Reserve.
After pulling back slightly in February, Americans went back to borrowing on credit cards in March — despite record-high interest rates. This indicates that consumers continue to struggle to make ends meet in this deteriorating economy. It also reveals that the Fed’s monetary tightening is not cooling spending as promised.
American consumers continued to pile on debt in February, but the pace of borrowing slowed significantly, another sign the economy could be heading toward a recession.
Overall, consumer debt grew by $15.3 billion in February, a 3.8% annual increase, according to the latest data from the Federal Reserve. That compares with an upwardly revised 19.5 billion increase in January.
Rising consumer debts colliding with rising interest rates is a ticking time bomb.
Over the last several months, consumer debt has climbed at a steep, steady pace as Americans struggle with rising prices. November was no different, with consumers piling on another $27.9 billion in debt.