WASHINGTON – Consumer borrowing plunged at a record annual rate of $7.2 billion in October, reflecting a big drop in auto loans.
The Federal Reserve reported Wednesday that the decline was the biggest amount ever in dollar terms, and included a record drop of $5.6 billion rate of decline in the category that includes car loans.
The dollar declines translated into a drop of 4 percent in overall borrowing, the biggest percentage setback in nearly 15 years, and a decline of 4.9 percent in the category that includes auto loans, the biggest percentage drop in 13 years.
The big drop took analysts by surprise. They had been expecting that consumer spending would rise at an annual rate of $5 billion in October.
While retailers are reporting a mixed start to the holiday shopping season, analysts cautioned against reading too much into the one-month falloff in consumer credit.
“This is a payback for the aggressive discounts consumers were offered to buy cars during the summer,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Economy.com.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 45.95 points to finish the day at 10,810.91.
Americans are shouldering record-high levels of consumer debt and personal savings rates have fallen to record lows, but analysts said consumer spending, which accounts for two-thirds of the total economy, should continue rising even if the pace slows a bit.
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