Household Debt Jumps to End 2016

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Total U.S. household debt climbed to a near-record $12.58 trillion by the end of 2016, a Federal Reserve Bank of NY report says.

"Greater access to auto loans for non-prime consumers suggests that lenders have made deliberate decisions to accept more risk from non-prime loans in their portfolio", said Jason Laky, TransUnion's automotive and consumer lending business leader, while discussing the market forecast of the agency in 2017.

An important contrast to 2008 was the share of credit that is delinquent.

Delinquencies are the canary in the coal mine when it comes to losses for carmakers.

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The average monthly vehicle payment in the fourth quarter rose above $500 for the first time, according to the credit-rating agency Experian.

Student debt rose by $78 billion for a total of $1.3 trillion.

Moreover, 75 percent of the auto loans originated from auto finance companies unlike credit unions and banks, which have been losing its credit standards since 2010.

"An increase in delinquency is the natural effect of that strategy", he said. Auto loans jumped by $22 billion as new auto loan originations for the year climbed to a record high.

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The NY Fed also calculated that the number of total auto loans increased to a record 106 million in the fourth quarter - a pickup of 6 million during the year. The U.S. now has a total household debt of $12.58 trillion, which is just under the $12.68 trillion peak in the third quarter of 2008, a time when the financial crisis was unfolding.

However, growth in non-housing debt - which includes credit card debt and student and auto loans - are key factors fueling the rebound in debt.

Mortgage debt rose $231 billion (or 2.8 percent) during 2016, along with almost every other form of debt, including auto debt (up $93 billion, or 8.7 percent), credit card debt (up $46 billion, or 6.3 percent), and student debt (up $78 billion, or 6.3 percent).

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