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Consumers Slowly Digging Out From Recession

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We’re getting more confirmation that the economic recovery, while achingly slow, is actually happening. A report published recently by the Commerce Department confirms what analysts had been expecting, that consumers’ incomes and spending both crept upward slightly in December 2010.

Personal income and consumer spending both rose by .4%. That’s not exactly the stuff booms are made of. But it comes at the end of a year in which consumer spending grew by 3.5%, the largest increase since 2007.

“Today’s data show consumer spending clearly accelerated at the end of last year,” Rebecca Blank, acting deputy secretary of commerce, said in a press release. U.S. Commerce Department Acting Deputy Secretary. “Taken together, we expect these income and spending data to support stronger economic growth in 2011.”

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That moderately good news came on the heels of last week’s announcement by Standard & Poor’s and the credit bureau Experian that the number of loan defaults dropped slightly in November and December. The default rate for first mortgages fell to 2.93% and for second mortgages fell to 1.74%. Defaults dropped from 1.76% to 1.68% for car loans, and the credit card default rate dropped slightly, to 6.73%.

“Default rates across the four major categories of consumer borrowing declined in December from November and from a year earlier,” David M. Blitzer, an analyst at S&P, said in a press release. “Nationally, consumers continue to gradually improve their financial condition.”

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