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Credit card debt increases by $50B to new record high

Credit card debt in the United States increased by $50 billion in the fourth quarter of 2023, according to recent findings from the New York Federal Reserve.

The latest report, released Tuesday, found the total credit card balances stood at $1.13 trillion by the end of December, which is about a 4.6 percent increase from the third quarter of 2023. This appears to be the highest credit card balance since at least 2003, according to the state’s Federal Reserve data.

The Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit also found the total household debt increased by $212 billion in the fourth quarter, bringing the total to $17.5 trillion.

Auto loan balances increased in the fourth quarter by $12 billion to $1.61 trillion, which the report said is in line with an upward trend in loan balances since the second quarter of 2020.

The agency’s press release noted that aggregate delinquency rates also rose in the fourth quarter, stating that 3.1 percent of outstanding debt was “in some stage of delinquency at the end of December.”

“Credit card and auto loan transitions into delinquency are still rising above pre-pandemic levels,” said Wilbert van der Klaauw, economic research adviser at the New York Fed, in a statement. “This signals increased financial stress, especially among younger and lower-income households.”

The press release said about 8.5 percent of annualized credit card balances and 7.7 percent of annualized auto loan balances transitioned into delinquency by the end of the fourth quarter.

“Serious credit card delinquencies increased across all age groups, notably with younger borrowers surpassing pre-pandemic levels,” the press release stated.

Mortgage loan balances rose by $112 billion from the third quarter and totaled $12.25 trillion by the end of December, according to the report.

The report also found that home equity lines of credit jumped by $11 billion in the fourth quarter.

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