Economy

Household debt tops $16 trillion for the first time, fueled by higher inflation and interest rates

Household debt climbed past $16 trillion in the second quarter for the first time, as soaring inflation pushed up housing and auto balances, the New York Federal Reserve reported Tuesday.

The collective American IOU totaled $16.15 trillion through the end of June, good for a $312 billion — or 2% — increase from the previous quarter. Debt gains were widespread but particularly focused on mortgages and vehicle purchases.

“Americans are borrowing more, but a big part of the increased borrowing is attributable to higher prices,” the New York Fed said in a blog post accompanying the release.

Mortgage balances rose 1.9% for the quarter, or $207 billion, to about $11.4 trillion, even though the pace of originations moved lower. That annual increase marked a 9.1% gain from a year ago as home prices exploded during the pandemic era.

Credit card balances surged $46 billion in the three-month period and 13% over the past year, which Fed researchers said was the largest gain in more than 20 years. Non-housing credit balances increased 2.4% from the first quarter, the biggest gain since 2016.

Student loan debt was little changed at $1.59 trillion.

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