(Bloomberg News) U.S. households cut their debt last quarter, borrowing less against homes and closing credit card accounts, according to a survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Consumer indebtedness totaled $11.6 trillion at the end of September, down $110 billion, or 0.9% from the end of June, according to the New York Fed's quarterly report on household debt and credit. Households have slashed about $1 trillion from outstanding consumer debts since the peak in the third quarter of 2008, the New York Fed said.
Delinquency rates also continued to decline, with 11.1% of outstanding debt in "some stage of delinquency," down from 11.4% at the end of June and 11.6% a year earlier, according to the New York Fed. Household delinquent debt fell 8.2% from the previous year to $1.3 trillion, the survey said.
"Consumer debt is declining but only part of the reduction is attributable to defaults or charge-offs," Donghoon Lee, a senior economist at the New York Fed, said in a statement. "Americans are borrowing less and paying off more debt than in the recent past. This change, which we continue to study carefully, can be a result of both tightening credit standards and voluntary changes in saving behavior."
Consumers paying off their debt crimped their cash flow by about $150 billion in 2009, the New York Fed said. Between 2000 and 2007 borrowing increased consumers' cash flow by $300 billion a year, according to the district bank.
The report is based on data compiled by the New York Fed's Consumer Credit Panel, the statement said. When the district bank released its second quarter report in August, it said the survey drew from a "nationally representative" 5% random survey of Equifax Inc. credit-report data, which encompass people with a Social Security number and a credit report.