Mortgages Crimp Consumer Credit

Consumers have piled up a record level of debt, but they aren't in a mood to take on much more, according to a report from analysts at US Bancorp Piper Jaffray.

And some debt is migrating to the home loan sector because of refinancing activity.

In February, total consumer debt stood at $1.7 trillion, up 3.5% from a year earlier.

Most of what growth has occurred has been in revolving credit, such as credit card debt, while consumer installment lending has slipped.

In part, the mortgage refinancing boom has played a role in that trend.

"The slow growth in consumer credit is due to the combination of a soft economic environment and the continuation of high levels of refinance activity prompting consumers to pay off higher rate, non-tax-deductible consumer debt with lower rate, tax-deductible mortgage debt," the Piper Jaffray report said.

Analysts at Piper Jaffray, led by Robert Napoli, expect that revolving credit growth will pick up a bit later this year as the refinancing boom slows down.

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