Mortgages Drive Q1 Household Credit To Historic Highs

Total household credit increased by $155 billion in the first quarter of 2020, driven primarily by an increase in mortgage balances, according to a report released Tuesday by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Total household debt increased to $14.3 trillion in the quarter, up 1.1 percent – and is $1.6 trillion higher than the previous peak in the third quarter of 2008.

Mortgage balances rose by $156 billion in the first quarter to $9.71 trillion. Non-housing debt balances remained relatively flat, with the $27 billion increase in student loans and $15 billion increase in auto loans largely offset by a $39 billion decline in credit card balances and other forms of debt. 

The latest report captures consumer credit data as of March 31. The numbers do not fully reflect the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in March because individual credit reports are typically updated monthly.

“It is critical to note that the latest report reflects a time when many of the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic were only starting to be felt,” said Andrew Haughwout, senior vice president at the New York Fed. “We do see a larger-than-expected decline in credit card balances based on past seasonal patterns, but it is too soon to confidently assess its connection to the pandemic. We will continue to monitor these developments and the broader state of household balance sheets closely as key data are updated and the economic situation evolves.”

Aggregate delinquency rates were mostly unchanged in the first quarter, with 4.6 percent of all outstanding debt was in some stage of delinquency, a small decline from the four quarter of 2019. 

About 0.9 percent of mortgages were 30 or more days delinquent, while about 75,000 individuals had a new foreclosure notation added to credit reports.