US consumer borrowing up in December behind auto, student loans; but credit card use falls

WASHINGTON – Americans stepped up borrowing in December to buy cars and attend school. But they cut back sharply on credit card use, continuing a trend that could hold back growth in the new year.

The Federal Reserve says total consumer borrowing rose $14.6 billion in December from November to $2.78 trillion. That’s the highest level on record.

The increase was driven entirely by gains in student and auto loans. Borrowing in the category that measures those loans increased $18.2 billion, the biggest monthly gain since November 2001.

But credit card debt fell $3.6 billion. The drop may reflect consumers’ worries about tax increases that took effect in the new year.