Yesterday, the Federal Reserve reported that outstanding consumer credit for November fell a worse-than-expected $7.9 billion, lending support to the notion that the consumer is deleveraging.

However, based on the accompanying graph of year-over-year changes in consumer credit and mortgage debt relative to GDP, it seems like deleveraging has hardly begun.


Category: BP Cafe, Consumer Spending, Credit

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

15 Responses to “Consumer deleveraging: only just begun?”

  1. interwebrit says:

    IMHO demographics is quasi-destiny…..I’d imagine that boomers would rather pay down debt than double down on risk. this may exacerbate the consumer-led contraction….especially since job creation isn’t keeping up with the youngsters entering the job market.

    My personal tell….SBUX. SBUX epitomizes the excess capacity and over-leveraged consumer spending of the past decade+. Local traffic at the SBUXs I frequent are down, down, down.

  2. albnyc says:

    I think SBUX is a poster-child for the now-dead mass affluence movement and the overleveraged corporate expansion to capture it. SBUX is a great tell…it’s a concept as dead as the Walkman.

  3. Greg0658 says:

    I guessed Starbucks but had to google it tobe sure.
    The Walkman is not dead – it transposed to a new record format … of which I will ownup to – I have the cassette model, the CD model and the miniCD model … but they ain’t got me for the USB fed memory chip model yet.

  4. Ken says:

    Words are peculiar things. “Consumer deleveraging” and “outstanding consumer credit falling” sound so bad; but read it as “people are reducing their debt” and things look better.

  5. Mike in Nola says:


    It doesn’t look better if you are a student of the school that thinks a trip to Target is better than producing something of value to society.

  6. Lower consumer debt. Thank for the good news. Next you’ll start telling us people are saving money

    I guess people finally started listening to ‘crazy’ old uncle Joe in the corner this Christmas

  7. Doug_Bayer says:

    Do the figures reflect the amount of credit in use or the amount of credit nominally available. The drop in “outstanding” credit could reflect nothing more than banks freezing home equity lines and closing unused but open credit card accounts. In that case, the numbers do not necessarily show any reduction in debt, only in credit available to fuel future spending.

  8. John Rosevear says:

    If this is a reduction in credit available, then it’s presumably the *banks* deleveraging (per Meredith Whitney’s prediction) by rolling down credit card limits and/or closing unused accounts, no?

    Yes or no, we’ll see a lot of that in coming quarters.

  9. DP says:

    Was talking to my wife last night about the savings rate, she doesn’t follow any of this stuff. Her friend, who has a 3,000ft square house and 2 new cars just got laid off and my wife was very surprised to learn they have no savings – they both had well paying jobs for years.

    Went something like this:

    Wife: “Why didn’t people save?”

    Me: “Some people thought they were being conservative by not taking out their home equity, that was
    their ‘savings’ so they didn’t worry about it, now it’s gone.”

    Wife: “So why didn’t people save as the home equity went away?”

    Me: “They still had a lot of money in stocks and 401ks. If they were following the idea of having 3-6 months emergency fund, to many that was it. Now it’s half gone.”

    Wife: “So you think they’ve learned their lesson and will save now?”

    Me: “I hope so, but the government is trying to make the value of savings worthless to get people to invest. If they do save like they really need to, the economy is going to suck for years. If they don’t save, we’ll have an even bigger crash in the future.”

    Wife: “What about tax cuts?”

    Me: “If I were your friend with a sudden wake up call like that, I’d save it, wouldn’t you? If people have learned anything at all, any tax cut should go towards paying off part of the highest interest rate debt someone has. The government is counting on that not being true.”

    Wife: “Well yeah, but that’s what we did all along…”

    That about right? What would you have said differently? We did also discuss briefly the effect of inflation on savings then went back to much more fun stuff, like the Orlando Magic game we’d just come from where they killed Atlanta 121-87 :)

  10. Bruce in Tn says:

    Best Buy fell yesterday:

    “Best Buy Co. fell 5.3 percent to $28.08. The largest U.S. electronics chain said December sales dropped after holiday discounts failed to draw shoppers. Revenue from stores open at least 14 months declined 6.5 percent, the retailer said. ”

    This appears to me to say that it isn’t a delay in purchases, but a new mindset about buying less electronic stuff….There was already less competition from Circuit City, but Best Buy still couldn’t get rid of their merchandise.

    I would vote yes on the just begun deleveraging..

  11. mudpuppy says:

    The only way credit junkies will stop borrowing money is if they are forced to. 40 year ago when I first got out of high school I wanted to borrow money to buy a car. My dad told me there are two types of people in the world, those that borrow and those that pay cash. The people who borrow pay twenty percent more than those who pay cash. He said choose which one you want to be right now because once you chooose you’ll never change. He was right. I not only never borrow money, I can’t. It’s the way I’m wired. But those I know who are addicted to credit can’t get out of that hole and they never will. So to speak of American’s deleveraging to me is a joke.

  12. Mike in Nola says:


    Just hope this translates into some fantastic deals. Our 10-15 yr old Sony CRT took another step towards the grave last week. Strangely, Best Buy raised the price on the 42 in. replacement candidate. I suppose they think people will assume that all prices have been cut and blindly buy. Maybe they are right.

    Sitting tight to wait for the new merchandise from CES to force some closeout deals, although some of the new models look mighty tasty.

  13. Greg0658 says:

    I wanted something to play with on Christmas morning. Got me a indoor/outdoor weather station and nuclear clock. Even made me climb the tower to mount the wind speed cups (gotta lookup the official name of that thing).

    Anyway theBP story is Menards pre-Christmas had it at $40 and on the 26th at $70.
    So I figure it went … pre-holiday gotta roll in the dirt for every sale possible in the nearly required purchase’g season and post big day back to standard profit scheme.
    Not sure when things get back to desperate.

    Advice – on the digital tv switch over – I purchased for the White Sox World Series a HD.DTV CRT set (signal from air). A year ago I got a DTV LCD set for my picture window to show digital pictures to the passing public. When it came inside for the Christmas display I realized Comcast is sending digital signals down the pipes and the QuadCities has old tv programs on D4.2 … but the rub is the chip set in the World Series set is not capable of that subsignal reception provided by cable. Got in to early for that imbed technology. On a good day I can get at 80 miles out D4.2 from the air on that Sox set – but the re-programing from air to cable and back is a b^#@h.

  14. mikeinpanglao says:


    I have always been the saver type. It is one reason for my first divorce. When I retired at 55 my ex got really pissed and claimed she didn’t get enough out of the divorce even though she was making 30% more than me and got the better half as it was. I paid child support for years and was never late, which was a good lesson in frugality. When I told her I paid my house off early and had no debt she almost mocked me (now remember she is the one still working) and told me how much money she got by refinancing her house with a 30 year ARM. She even called it “free money”. I asked her when and how much the loan would reset to I got a dear in the headlights look. It was obvious she didn’t know the loan payments would go up. She is a very intelligent woman but she is definitely a credit junkie. She just lost her job on top of that. I wish her luck and maybe now she will learn a little bit about saving.

  15. Greg0658 says:

    an fyi on HDDTV – I went down to the cable office today

    from wiki:
    In North American digital video, a QAM tuner is a device present in some digital televisions and similar devices which enables direct reception of digital cable channels without the use of a set-top box. QAM stands for “quadrature amplitude modulation” the format by which digital cable channels are encoded and transmitted via cable. The law does not require the cable provider to advertise their availability.