October 1, 2020

Auto-loan debt rose gradually pre-COVID-19

Household debt increased in the first quarter before the COVID-19 pandemic, driven primarily by the housing market. Debt levels across other credit products, including auto loans, dipped slightly, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported Tuesday.

The New York Fed noted that because individual consumer credit reports typically are updated on a monthly basis, the results of its latest survey of consumer credit doesn’t reflect the true impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The total U.S. debt balance is now $1.6 trillion more than the previous peak of $12.68 trillion recorded during the financial crisis of 2008.

Auto-loan debt rose $15 billion in the first quarter, though loan applications fell and credit standards constricted marginally. Currently, there is about $1.35 trillion in outstanding auto-loan debt in the U.S.

Auto-loan originations slid in the first quarter, the New York Fed said, as the median credit score among new auto borrowers inched up three points compared with the final quarter of 2019.

Household debt rose 1.1 percent, or $155 billion, in the first quarter to $14.30 trillion.