Consumers increased their borrowing in November at the fastest pace in three months.
Total borrowing in November climbed $24.5 billion, compared to a smaller $16.2 billion in October, the Federal Reserve reported Monday. The increase pushed total debt to a fresh record of $3.75 trillion.
The acceleration reflected a big jump in the category that covers credit card debt, which rose $11 billion, compared to a much smaller $2.4 billion increase in October. It was the largest monthly advance since March and was a good sign at the start of the holiday shopping season.
Growth in the category that covers auto loans and student loans slowed a bit in November, showing a rise of $13.5 billion after a $13.8 billion increase in October.
Patterns in consumer credit are closely watched by economists for clues they can provide about consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of economic activity.
The November increase, which translated into a strong gain of 7.9 percent at an annual rate, was larger than economists had been forecasting. It came at a critical time for consumer spending in the midst of the holiday shopping period.
The Fed's monthly consumer credit report does not cover home mortgages or other loans secured by real estate such as home equity loans.