Consumer debt is shrinking

April 19, 2012 at 4:50 PM
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WASHINGTON, April 19 (UPI) -- Broad measures of U.S. consumer debt show the public has gone on a debt diet since the financial mess took hold.

In the fall of 2007, just before the recession officially began, debt incurred through mortgages, credit cards, student loans and other borrowing amounted to 14 percent of the disposable income in the United States.

For the first three months of 2012, that figure had dropped to 10.9 percent, The New York Times reported Thursday.

That is the lowest the figure has been since 1994.

In addition, when obligations include not only debt, but property tax and household insurance, the percentage is the lowest it has been since 1984.

Debt has dropped in its two tangible forms. The amount owed in the first quarter was $13.2 trillion, which is almost $600 billion less than the consumer debt load of 1988.

Secondly, interest rates have dropped. Mortgage interest rates have repeatedly set historic lows in the past year, as the Fed has set its federal fund rate at zero to 0.25 percent and spent billions of dollars to inflate demand for securities, which keeps pressure on interest rates.

Yields on government bonds have remained low and inflation has been subdued since the recession included the loss of millions jobs. Producers understand it is self-defeating to raise prices when consumers are out of work.

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