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Consumer borrowing in US increases at fastest pace since 2001

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Household borrowing surged in March at the fastest pace since November 2001 as financing for automobiles picked up and Americans' outstanding credit-card debt soared.

[WASHINGTON] Household borrowing surged in March at the fastest pace since November 2001 as financing for automobiles picked up and Americans' outstanding credit-card debt soared.

The US$29.7 billion increase, or an annualized 10 per cent, exceeded the highest estimate in a Bloomberg survey and followed a revised US$14.1 billion gain the prior month, Federal Reserve figures showed Friday. Revolving credit, which includes credit-card spending, posted the biggest annualized advance since July 2000.

With employers still hiring at a decent clip, consumers may be growing more comfortable carrying bigger credit-card balances and taking out car loans.

The pickup in March helped drive up household borrowing in the first quarter to a 6.4 annualized pace, compared with a 6.2 per cent rate in the final three months of 2015.

Revolving debt jumped by US$11.1 billion in March, or an annualized 14.2 per cent, after a US$2.9 billion increase, the Fed's report showed.

Non-revolving debt, which includes loans for education and automobile and mobile home purchases, increased US$18.6 billion, the most since September. In the first quarter, student loans outstanding climbed US$31.7 billion and lending for auto purchases increased US$13.5 billion.

The median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a US$16 billion rise in total consumer credit, with estimates ranging from US$5 billion to US$24 billion. The February reading was previously reported as an advance of US$17.2 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.

BLOOMBERG