US consumer credit up 4.4% in November, best in 5 months

U.S. consumer borrowing rose 4.4% in November, its strongest showing in five months

WASHINGTON -- U.S. consumer borrowing rose 4.4% in November, its strongest showing in five months, led by strong gains in auto and student loans that offset a drop in credit card borrowing.

The Federal Reserve said Friday that the rise represented an increase of $15.3 billion, the best showing since June. Borrowing had risen $4.5 billion in October.

Borrowing for autos and student loans increased by $16.1 billion, while borrowing in the category that includes credit cards fell by $786.7 million after a larger $5.5 billion drop in October.

The drop in credit card use was an indication consumers remain cautious about spending amid a spike in coronavirus cases in recent weeks.

Consumer borrowing is closely watched for indications of the willingness of households to take on more debt to support their spending, which accounts for 70% of U.S. economic activity.

The Labor Department reported Friday that the economy lost 140,000 jobs in December, the first job losses since April and evidence that the economy is slowing as coronavirus cases surge.

The changes in borrowing left consumer credit at $4.18 trillion in November, up a modest 0.5% from a year ago.

The Fed's monthly consumer credit report does not cover home mortgages or any loans secured by real estate, such as home equity loans.