The New York Fed’s quarterly release of consumer lending data received more attention than usual this cycle thanks to a certain milestone. For the first time, overall U.S. consumer debt of $12.7 trillion exceeded the previous high established in late 2008, just as the extent of the Great Recession was becoming apparent.
Even at a high level, this statistic provides an opportunity to separate the “glass half full” types from the Negative Nellies. Does it mean our economy has finally recovered—or that we’ve simply created a new bubble for ourselves?
Probably neither, although a closer look at the data could provide pockets of support for either argument. If you like numbers nearly as much as I do, I encourage you to download the New York Fed’s deck and easy-to-navigate spreadsheet, both of which contain plenty of worthwhile nuggets.
Here’s my take on the high points.
Of the six underlying consumer debt categories, four remain well off their highs while two have grown—and one of those is a doozy.
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