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Consumers Making a U-Turn on Their Debt

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The rate at which consumers tried to get out from under their various outstanding debts rose sharply during and following the recent national recession, but that trend may now be reversing itself as the economy improves.

Consumers are generally taking on far more debt these days, as evidenced by rising requests for new lines of credit, and many lenders large and small are all too happy to extend financing once again, according to new data from the credit scoring bureau FICO. During the last quarter alone, many consumers also asked their lenders to raise the limits on their existing lines of credit.

“These results indicate that 2013 could be the year that Americans begin to embrace credit again, after the considerable deleveraging we’ve seen since 2008,” said Dr. Andrew Jennings, chief analytics officer at FICO and head of FICO Labs. “With both the job market and real estate sector showing signs of life, American consumers may again be willing to fund their lifestyles by taking on more debt. And it appears that banks are willing to oblige.”

A FICO survey found that about 61 percent of bankers expect an increase in requests for new lines of credit over the next six months, and the same amount also believe that consumers will want more credit when they qualify, the report said. That’s the highest proportion for both types of expectations seen in the last 11 quarters, and another 59 percent of those polled said they think credit card balances will increase over the next six months.

And in general, on most types of consumer loans, bankers will likely rise to meet demand, the report said. Some 74 percent said they believed auto loan credit would be enough to meet consumer demand, and 71 percent said the same about credit card availability. Another 68 percent felt this way about student loans, and 53 percent said that would be the case for business loans as well.

Where mortgages are concerned, it was more of a mixed bag, though, the report said. In all, 61 percent said they thought available credit for refinancing would meet consumer demand, and 53 percent felt the same about new home loans, but nearly half said they thought banks wouldn’t be able to meet mortgage demand.

Consumers taking on more debt may also be more cautious in the coming years, having learned valuable lessons about taking on too much credit during the recession.

Image: ibeeckmans, via Flickr

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